Sometimes I'm inclined to think that we live in a cold world. One where machine-recorded tapes substitute human voices, where automated checkouts replace librarians and supermarket workers. Where a handshake no longer signifies a promise made. Where things have become ultra legal and we lose sight of love, kindness, and helping others.
I know, that was a little depressing. Do you ever feel that way, too?
Well, good news. I'm about to talk about something really happy: random acts of kindness. Among the garbage and the grime, you can usually find a friend who will smile and brighten your day. A kindred spirit who lifts heavy books for you or cooks you a warm meal.
Here in Boston I've been a witness to many a random act of kindness. From drivers waving me to cross the street in the cold, crisp weather (a nice change from Costa Rican drivers accelerating when they see a pedestrian crossing), to observing while the conductor of a subway train left his position to help a blind man off the trolley. I've had to ask for directions and was pleasantly guided, and fellow Bostonians have even taken the time to point me to where I needed to go.
It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Reciprocally, it feels good to do random acts of kindness. It makes our world a better place. Have you done any random acts of kindness lately?
Barley Salad with Sweet Potato, Pecans, and Feta
p&q original-- inspired by this recipe
1 cup barley
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes
500g sweet potatoes, medium dice (about 3 cups cubed)
½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped*
⅓ cup parsley, finely chopped (I used my food processor)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Tiny drizzle of honey
100g crumbled feta cheese*
Preheat oven to 400F with rack in the center.
Rinse the barley in a fine mesh strainer, picking out any bad grains. Combine the barley and water in a medium saucepan, and add a few pinches of salt. Cook over medium-high heat until water reaches a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, until water has been completely absorbed. (Check the package to see how long your barley needs to cook; mine was done after 30 minutes but some cook longer/ shorter).
Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, pepper, and 1 tsp salt in a large (I used 9 x 13-inch) baking pan. Add the diced sweet potatoes and toss well to coat. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until tender.
When barley and sweet potatoes are done cooking, place them in serving bowl; add pecans and parsley. Make the dressing by combining the olive oil, apple cider vinegar , and a tiny drizzle of honey; then add to the serving bowl, along with the feta cheese. Serve warm or cold.
*Notes: You could substitute another nut for the pecans if you wanted. About the feta, I like to purchase a block and crumble it myself because I think it tastes fresher that way.