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Barley Pilaf with Pomegranate Seeds, Goat Cheese and Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

A Pomegranate Seed by Any Other Name:

First off, yes, I do in fact know that pomegranate seeds are called arils, but for the purposes of this post, I thought it would be easiest referring to them as seeds. Second of all, I’m about to include a bit of preamble about the reasons behind this recipe and its ties to the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat (the 15th of the month of Shevat); if that’s not your thing, feel free to scroll down to the recipe. This barley pilaf is a little fiddly, it’s a little tart. It’s really really good!

A New Year for Trees (No, Really):

Most people know that like the Chinese lunar New Year, Jewish people also have a different new year — Rosh Hashanah— that generally comes out in the early autumn. What most people don’t know though, is that there are actually several new years on the Jewish (also lunar) calendar with one of them being Tu Bishvat which is the new year for trees! How can you not love that? describes Tu Bishvat as the day which “marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.” As kids, we were given paper bags filled with Tu Bishvat treats imported from Israel including figs and dates and these impossible to chew oblong black bars called “buckser” which we later learned was Yiddish for carob. It was inedible, but it effectively marked a moment. There are people who get into the holiday in a big way and celebrate with a full ceremonial meal, or seder, similar to the traditional Passover feast. I’m not those people. I  just go for the treats. This year though, I tried to come up with something different, and since barley is one of the 7 Species often used to describe the bounty of Israel in biblical times, I thought it appropriate. And then I updated it for an updated palate.

Spring is Coming:

It’s also easier to think of Tu Bishvat as a Jewish Arbor Day though, when the planting cycle is acknowledged and celebrated. I choose to think of it as a day that helps save my sanity slightly during the endless feeling winter. It’s cold! It’s blustery! But spring is ACTIVELY on its way. And apparently there’s scientific proof behind it.

In an article on the Public Radio International (PRI) website, they offered up an explanation of how plants actually prepare for spring, even during the dead of winter. Matthew Wallenstein, associate professor of ecosystems science and sustainability at Colorado State University, who “has spent many years researching the microbes, bacteria, fungi and other soil organisms that continue on with their normal processes underneath permafrost” explains that by measuring the amount of carbon dioxide, he can “measure, essentially, their breathing.” And here’s where it gets really cool Wallenstein believes that by studying the soil, “We can see that they’re actually transforming that soil and making nutrients available so that when the plants start coming to life in the spring, there’s actually nutrients available for them.”

Yay! Scientific proof that even on the gloomiest days, nature is getting ready for renewal.

But Back to the Barley:

Whether or not you believe that trees deserve their own new year, you might want to try out this recipe. It’s easy to make, though it has a few steps to it. And you can feel free to substitute store bought vinaigrette if you’re not up to making your own.

Till we beet again,


Barley Pilaf with Pomegranate Seeds, Goat Cheese and Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette from

Print Recipe
Serves: 4


  • 1 cup of barley
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 green apple finely chopped (peeled or unpeeled, it's totally up to you!)
  • 1 small rib of celery finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. pomegranate arils/seeds
  • 6 oz. goat cheese
  • For the dressing
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 dried figs, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp. minced shallots
  • 1 Tbsp. Pomegranate concentrate (You can usually find this in Middle Eastern groceries).
  • Chopped thyme, mint or other fragrant herbs



In a dry frying pan, toast barley slightly until just browned and toss frequently (shake the pan) to bring out more of a nutty taste.


Cook the barley with the vegetable stock, stirring to avoid clumping or burning.


While the barley is cooking, saute the balsamic vinegar and figs on a small flame for about 10 minutes or until mixture has thickened and is bubbling. Allow to cool.


After vinegar mixture has cooled, add in all the remaining dressing ingredients to a blender and process until perfectly smooth.


After barley has cooled, add in apple, celery and pomegranate and toss well.


Drizzle with fig vinaigrette or blend in - it depends on your own preference.


Divide into four portions and top with goat cheese.


This is a very flavorful salad, but also tangy and unique. There's a lot of texture and taste going on, so smaller portions are probably a better idea.

Did you make this recipe? Hashtag it #EvolvedFoodie and share on social media or below if you’re so inclined. I love to see your delicious dishes!

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