What to bring to Autumn brunch Pt. One: Winter Rainbow Salad

When I eat this gorgeous salad I am reminded of that rainbow song “red and yellow and pink and green”, but instead I sing “tart and bitter and salty and sweet”. This is a crazy delicious, beautifully balanced, spectacle dish that will surprise your brunch buddies. The base of this salad, barley, acts as a lovely support for the roasted and fresh fruits vegetables, all the while holding a little shape-twin dialogue with the toasty pine nut garnish. Who says salad can’t be for breakfast?


Winter Rainbow Salad

Winter Rainbow Salad

1.5 cups pearl barley 

4.5 cups vegetable stock

1 head of radicchio 

I bulb of fennel 

2 ribs of rhubarb

1/2 acorn squash (use the other ½ for “What to bring to Autumn brunch Pt. Two”: squash bread pudding)

3 TB brown sugar


1 honeycrisp apple

2 ribs of celery

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 TB champagne vinegar

2 TB apple cider vinegar

1 TB minced fresh thyme, minced 


½ cup pine nuts


Make the barley. Combine the barley and veg stock in a big pot and bring to a boil. Once it boils reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 25 minutes until soft and chewy. Don’t panic if you need to add water and simmer a bit more.  Fluff barley with a fork. 


Cook the veg. Preheat oven to 375. Set out two cookie sheets, one for your sweets and one for your salties.  Core and cut the radicchio into about 1-2 inch blobs (which will kind of fall apart but that’s ok). Trim the fennel, remove the core and slice into ½ inch pieces. Spread the radicchio and fennel out on the cookie sheet and toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut the acorn squash into very thin ¼ inch segments and arrange on one side of the other cookie sheet. You can cut the skin off if you’re that sort of person. Cut the rhubarb into ½ to ¾ inch chunks and arrange on the other side of the cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar. Place the sweet sheet on the top shelf of your oven, and the salty sheet on the middle shelf. Roast for 30-40 mins in total, tossing and turning veg frequently. Don’t panic and pull the sheets out before they are ready – (I’m looking at you salty) – you’re looking for deep caramelization, but no mush, from both of these guys. 


Make the dressing. Mince your shallot, garlic and fresh thyme if you haven’t already done so. In a small bowl mix the shallots, garlic and vinegars. Now the brain-wrist work out: start vigorously whisking with one hand and with the other slowly add ½ cup olive oil in a thin steady stream. Whisking as you add the EVOO allows it to emulsify for a balanced dressing. Season the dressing with a LOT of S&P (remember – it’s seasoning the whole salad)


Roasting alert! ‘Bout time to pull out those sweeties and salties. Go check. Stir the radicchio and fennel into the (now cooled) barley pot (this is why you used a big one, this is where we are going to mix our salad – fewer dishes hooray). 


If you’re making this ahead of time this is when you pause. 


Right before you’re ready to serve. Toast your pine nuts over medium heat in a dry skillet stirring constantly until evenly browned. Don’t walk away because the nuts will get loose on you and burn quickly. Cut up your apple and celery into ½ inch bites. Ditto above – you can remove the skin if you're that sort of person… Add the apple, celery, rhubarb and squash. Pour the dressing over the whole thing and mix well. You’re trying not to stir the squash and rhubarb too much so they hold their shape. Adjust seasonings, dump out salad from big pot onto beautiful platter, garnish with lots of pine nuts and serve up your winter rainbow. 


Mary Bell Clement