asian pear grain bowls

i have received a jury summons. i don't think i know anyone my age that has served on a jury. do i? to be fair, a small part of me thinks this would be an interesting experience. like the day i agreed to work as an undercover asset of sorts for the washington state liquor control board at age 17 - fun for a day of zipping around in cop cars to casinos and bars. but the fun maxed out at one day... similarly, i'd serve on a jury for a day. one day would be fun. but the larger part of me worries i'd be out of work for weeks or even months serving my civil duty. i'm self employed. no one is going to pay me for a leave of absence to sit on a jury. the families i cook for would starve. that's an overstatement, but still, i can't take extended time off! so now i have to persuade the court that i fall under the "extreme inconvenience" category. fingers crossed...

there are pros and cons to being self employed. the biggest challenge is the fluctuation of work load. there are times when i'm catering events and cooking for four or more families each week. and other stretches of time when clients take vacations and i only have 6 or so hours of work to do in a week. if i was more financially driven (or flat broke), those slow weeks would probably stress me out. but i'm neither broke nor motivated much by money. i am fortunate to have a job i love to do that pays my bills. so the overly-booked weeks are the times that stress me out! grated, these busy (and well paid) weeks are what allow me to relax during the lulls. but it i've realized i have to be selfish with my time and relax when the opportunities present themselves. you never know when you're next busy week will consume you. 

the past week has been one of those lovely, relaxing lulls that i've filled with recipe testing, daily yoga practice, reading, gathering together with friends and trekking around the city in this unseasonably warm and sunny weather. at some point last week i spent a good chunk of my morning after yoga practice chatting over beverages at juicebox with a new friend who shares similar passions for yoga, cooking and teaching. i ordered a cup of the daily soup - a hearty blend of barley, root vegetables and thin matchsticks of asian pear. i made a mental note, like i so often do, to reuse those flavors and came up with this lovely dish. you could toss it and serve it as a grain salad, or dress ingredients individually to highlight each component of the dish. only as an afterthought did i think to add avocado to the leftovers i had for lunch the next day... i highly recommend adding avocado, although it was a delightful dish served as pictured here. you choose! 

asian pear grain bowls
1 head frisee 
1/2 cup unsalted, toasted cashews
1 large or 1 1/2 small asian pears
1/4 cup cilantro
1 cup whole grain, hulled barley 
1 avocado (optional) 

for the vinaigrette 
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
juice & zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt & red chili flakes

note: hulled barley is a minimally processed whole grain, with the bran layer intact. compared with pearl barely, hulled barley has more nutrients, protein and fiber! 

bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. add hulled barley and simmer on low for 25 minutes. at this time the barley is tender but chewy and nutty, which is how i prefer it served in salads. if you like your grains softer or have a weaker digestion, you may prefer to cook them for up to a full hour. strain and rinse with cold water and let drain while you prepare other ingredients. 

slice asian pears into thin matchsticks. cut any matchsticks longer than an inch in half. toss pears with a bit of lime juice to keep from browning and set aside. wash, dry and chop cilantro. roughly chop toasted cashews. tear apart frisee into bite-size leaves. whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. 

you can toss all ingredients together and serve as a grain salad. or dress frisee with a small amount of vinaigrette and in another bowl toss together the barley, cilantro and cashews with the majority of the vinaigrette. assemble as pictured, with lime-dressed pears and sliced avocado (optional) on top