Friday, August 14, 2009

Creamy "green" barley

As the weather maintains its sweltering severity and my days are already full of working and errand running and trying to see my husband and sleeping somewhere in there, I find myself gravitating more and more to one-dish meals. I don't mean Food TV creations designed to cause you the least amount of hassle (and, correspondingly, the least possible interaction with your food). I mean decently-rounded meals that can be stirred together in one bowl and happily, if somewhat lazily, consumed. Spoon to mouth, that's all I'm asking for.

Since ice cream does not a meal make (at least not every night), I'm falling back on my old steadies, whole grains. Tonight I wanted a creamy bowl of pearled barley flecked with nutrient-rich green vegetables. Instead of making a cream sauce, then stirring my grains in at the end, I had a thought: why not just take the elements of the cream sauce and just cook the barley straight in it? Remove a step (and a dirty dish)? Wouldn't you know, it worked!

As always, use the vegetables of your choice, just make sure they're cooked--or sufficiently edible--first. This would certainly be a decent meal on its own, but we added some broiled fish and it was perfect. It's best eaten warm, but can be stored in the fridge and reheated later.

Creamy "Green" Barley
(serves 2-3; start to finish about 45 minutes)

1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup milk
2/3 cup pearled barley
1/2 cup broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic
4 stems of greens of your choice (I used collards)
1/4 cup peas, freshly shelled or frozen, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt, pepper, and olive oil
  1. To reduce dishes, start by filling a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Stem and slice green leaves into thin strips and blanche in boiling water 5-7 minutes, until tender. Drain.
  2. Now, take that same saucepan and over medium high heat, saute onions with a little oil and a sprinkle of salt about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add broth (or water, alternately), milk, barley, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Take it off heat before the barley has sucked up all liquid--that's where your creaminess will come from.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400ยบ. Toss broccoli and garlic cloves in olive oil and salt. Roast 20 minutes. (Alternately, steam or saute broccoli until firm-tender.)
  4. When barley is ready, stir in vegetables and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

**Very important note!! What I forgot: bacon. I had every intention of frying a few slices of bacon and stirring in their tiny crumbles. Try it, and tell me how it went.

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