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Barley, Chicken, and Fig Salad

Nutty, high-fiber barley becomes even more compelling with the addition of sweet figs and chicken.

  • servings: 6


  • 6 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 bunch fresh lemon thyme
  • 1 finger chile or other spicy chile, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fig-balsamic or aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh Black Mission figs, quartered

Cook's Note

Store-bought fig-balsamic vinegar lends a mellow, mildly acidic tang to anything. Use it whenever you'd reach for standard balsamic, whether with farmers' market greens, grilled meat, or fresh berries.


  1. Step 1

    Bring water, onion, thyme, chile, peppercorns, and garlic to a gentle simmer in a medium pot. Add chicken, and simmer until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, and let cool slightly.

  2. Step 2

    Bring poaching liquid to a boil, and cook until reduced to 3 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract liquid. Discard solids.

  3. Step 3

    Bring liquid to a boil. Add barley, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and let cool.

  4. Step 4

    Shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Toss with barley, scallions, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Gently stir in figs, and serve immediately.

Martha Stewart Living, September 2008