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Lentil, Barley, and Rice Salad at the James Beard American Restaurant

Last week, the First Lady led the Presidential Delegation to the Milan Expo 2015. While in Milan, the First Lady visited the James Beard American Restaurant to prepare a healthy meal with the members of the Presidential Delegation and students from the American School of Milan. Throughout the six months of the Milan Expo, the James Beard American Restaurant is featuring visiting guest chefs from across America to prepare special menus to celebrate the finest ingredients and cuisine from the United States.

During the First Lady's visit, John Besh was the visiting guest chef, and he led the cooking demonstration as everyone chopped and mixed fresh ingredients for a Lentil, Barley, and Rice Salad. Throughout the demonstration, Chef Besh, along with Chef Mario Batali, a member of the Presidential Delegation, discussed the important role that cooking can play in leading a healthier life and learning about where food comes from.

Check out the complete recipe below and try it out at home!

First Lady Michelle Obama, in support of the "Let's Move!" initiative, participates in a cooking demonstration with Italian and American middle school students at the James Beard American Restaurant in Milan, Italy, June 17, 2015. The First Lady is leading the presidential delegation to the Milan Expo 2015, with the theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life." (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Lentil, Barley, and Rice Salad

For the salad:

  • 2 cups pearled barley
  • 2 cups fregola
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 cup black quinoa
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼  cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup mint, chiffonade
  • 1 each minced red onion
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes (yellow, red, purple)
  • ½ pound various zucchini or squash (diced)
  • ¾ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
  • ½  teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 each lemon, juice and zest
  • ½ pound arugula sylvetta
  • ½ pound parmigiano reggiano

For the chicken:

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • Salt
  • Red chili flakes
  • Olive oil
  • ½  cup Italian parsley
  • ¼  cup thyme leaves

For the finished plate:

  • 4 ounces barley, grain salad
  • 1 each chicken thigh
  • 1 ounce arugula
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • Parmigiano reggiano


Cook each grain independently, in salted water, with a bay leaf added.  Be careful to cook all grains slowly, and just before each grain is finished cooking, remove from heat and allow to set for 5 minutes.

Rinse grains in a china cap quickly, under warm water, just to remove excess starch.  Place in a large stainless bowl.

Whisk together the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, and stir in the garlic and herbs.  Pour the vinaigrette over the grain mixture.

Toss onions, tomatoes, zucchini, raisins, pine nuts into the grains and gently mix. Season with salt and pepper.

Let salad set at room temperature for 15 minutes, then adjust seasonings as needed.  Cover and refrigerate if needed.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and crushed red pepper.

In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add the chicken thighs in small batches and brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Once cooked through, remove the chicken from the skillet and reserve.  Generously season the cooked chicken thighs with chopped parsley and fresh thyme.

Place the chicken thigh on a small handful size portion of grain salad.  Top the chicken with a small bundle of arugula.  Dress the chicken and arugula with a drizzle of both olive oil and vinegar.  Shave a small amount of parmigiano reggiano over the chicken to finish.