Lunch with Stanley Tucci: Californian Barley Bowl

A few months back, I was lucky enough to have lunch with the frankly amazing Stanley Tucci. You will know him as an incredible actor and director but as I learnt over lunch and some very early and very delicious wine (it was 11.30am) he is the most passionate cook and all out food lover. Family and food run through his blood, so inevitably that’s what we ended up talking about. I tried to play it all cool having a Hollywood big hitter for lunch, not sure I quite managed it. I’ll let you be the judges.

The lunch we prepared and ate together sits at the crossroads of fresh and hearty. It’s the kind of
 food I remember eating when I was growing up in San Francisco. Light, bright and goodness-packed. This dish is a teaming up of all the things that remind me of California: unusual grains, bright citrus, avocado, nuts and seeds, and sprouted seeds and beans.


You can use any grain here – I like pearl barley for its chewy, pillowy heartiness, but quinoa, millet or even brown rice would work a treat. If you are vegan, leave out the feta and use coconut yoghurt. I have used basil, as I usually have a plant sitting on the windowsill, but any soft herb would be good.

This barley salad bowl is just as good the next day and travels particularly well, so I often make it for plane journeys or make extra for lunch the next day.


200g pearl barley
the zest and juice of 11⁄2 unwaxed lemons
50g almonds
50g sunflower or pumpkin seeds
2 ripe avocados
a large bunch of fresh basil
200ml plain yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
150g sprouted seeds or pulses (I use mung beans) (optional)
100g feta cheese
200g spinach or greens

Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients together. Heat a griddle pan on a high heat.

First, get the pearl barley cooking. Rinse it well under cold water, then put it into a pan with twice the amount of water, a good pinch of salt, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, then put the squeezed lemon half into the pan. Cook for about 25 minutes.

Heat a frying pan on a medium heat. Roughly chop the almonds and toast them in the pan with the seeds until just turning golden brown.

Cut the avocados in half, discard the stones, then put them cut-side down on the griddle pan and cook until they have nice griddle marks.

Make a quick yoghurt sauce: shred the basil leaves and mix with the yoghurt, zest and juice of the remaining lemon and a good pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Once the barley is cooked, drain any remaining water, then tumble it into a large dish, crumble over the feta cheese and the toasted almonds and seeds. Shred the spinach or greens, add to the dish and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, remembering that the feta is quite salty.

Serve the barley topped with half a warm avocado ready to spoon out, big helpings of yoghurt sauce and more basil, if needed.

Recipe taken from A Modern Way to Cook.
Image: Matt Russell

Posted: 03.07.17 7 Comments


Posted by Kerrie Cresswell at 11:10 on the 07.07.17

This looks and sounds delicious. Will remember for summer here in Aust

Posted by Katharina Rutner at 1:54 on the 14.07.17

I made this yesterday and it was so delicious! Thank you for all your inspiration and great recipes – they have completely changed the way my husband and I eat and cook.

Posted by Anna at 10:17 on the 19.07.17

thank you so much, that’s amazing to hear.

Posted by Nathalie Clerc at 9:20 on the 12.06.19

I’ve made this more than once and it is brilliant every single time. I live by your books – never once has a recipe failed me. Also love your saffron apricots as a quick dessert… the best!

Posted by Marianne Harwood at 1:29 on the 07.01.20

This looks wonderful, but I wonder how the avocado will behave if the salad is cooked one day, ready for the next (and the next)?!

Posted by Becky at 2:54 on the 05.08.20

Do you by any chance have nutritional info per serving for this dish? Energy, fibre, protein, etc?

Posted by Sharilyn Rennie at 11:47 on the 07.03.21

I am trying it this week! What is the yummy-looking drink in the image?

Add a comment