Barley Salad

July 8, 2012

Have you ever cooked with barley before? If yes, what is your favourite barley recipe?

As much as I adore quinoa, and despite the imbalanced number of recipes involving quinoa posted thus far on this blog, I do eat a variety of other whole grains! The first time I cooked barley was for the salad featured in this post, and I have since made this recipe many times, usually in the summer to accompany grilled meat.

This healthy yet tasty salad comes from Leslie Beck’s “Foods that Fight Disease – A Nutrition Guide to Staying Healthy for Life” and can easily be modified to accommodate the vegetables you have on hand and your specific taste preferences. The original recipe calls for pot barley, grated carrots, sliced black olives, chopped capers, and green onions (in keeping with yesterday’s green onion theme!). I am not a huge fan of black olives or capers (though I don’t mind them in this particular salad), so today I omitted those and I didn’t feel it needed anything to replace the missing ingredients. Still, next time I may add some roasted red pepper as I think the colour, texture and taste would be a perfect fit, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I just think roasted red pepper takes any dish to the next level. Update: Today I added chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese in addition to the roasted red pepper to the leftovers from yesterday, and it was divine!

The main reason I do not make anything with barley very often is that it takes approximately one hour to cook. Compare that to quinoa’s cooking time of 10 – 15 minutes, and it quickly becomes obvious why quinoa is a staple in my kitchen. Still, I think it is important to incorporate a wide variety of whole grains into our diets and it is well worth the effort to make the time to prepare barley and other longer-cooking whole grains. I am now officially making it my personal goal to prepare barley-based meals once a week, and I challenge you to do the same!

Before I provide you with the recipe, here are some interesting facts about barley (source: Leslie Beck’s website):

  1. Barley is more flavourful and has a chewier texture than white rice, with a more subtle flavour than brown rice.
  2. Barley is versatile: like oats, it is an excellent source of soluble fibre, which can help in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
  3. Hulled barley or “whole grain” barley has only the outer husk (hull) removed and is the most nutritious form of barley, since the bran and germ are left intact. It may not be as widely available as other barley types, but its superior nutrient content makes it worth seeking out.
  4. Pot (Scotch) barley Pot barley is husked and coarsely ground.  It is polished like pearl barley, but to a lesser extent, so the kernals are less refined, retaining more of the bran layer than pearled. The kernals are not as small as pearl barley, so pot barley takes a little longer to cook.
  5. Pearl barley Barley kernels are polished (pearled) to remove the double outer hull and the bran layer, which also removes much of the nutrients. Polishing the kernals produces uniform, ivory-coloured granules. Like white rice, this process makes the kernals less nutritious but faster to cook.

Barley Salad
(from Leslie Beck’s “Foods that Fight Disease – A Nutrition Guide to Staying Healthy for Life”

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup dry white wine (or orange juice is excellent, too!)

1 cup pot barley

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar (though I have omitted this in the past and the salad still tasted excellent)

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (or table salt will do)

2 carrots, shredded

1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives

2 tbsp capers (whole or chopped)

2 green onions, finely sliced

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, bring water and wine (or orange juice) to a boil. Add barley; cover and simmer for 1 hour or until barley is tender. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid, and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and salt.

Combine barley with carrots, olives, capers, and onions. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, tossing to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Per 3/4 cup serving: 192 cal, 4 g pro, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 30 g carb, 4 g fibre, 0 mg chol, 444 mg sodium

Excellent source of: vitamin A

Late this morning, as I stood in front of my open refrigerator, I wondered what on earth I would make for today’s lunch. I couldn’t help but notice that I had a lot of green onions – they have been included in every CSA box since the deliveries started in June and I have not been able to use them all up before the subsequent week’s delivery, so there were A LOT! After searching for some recipes online, I decided to make a Creamed Green Onion & Broccoli Soup Sans Cheese (from Group Recipes), Green Onion Pancakes (from delicious days), and Green Onion Quick Bread (from Best Recipes Ever).

The soup was a big hit with everyone, even the children. It is quite similar to the Broccoli Leek Soup I posted not too long ago, though it is a little more indulgent than the leek version because it calls for butter, which along with flour and milk, is used to thicken this soup. I even had fresh broccoli from my latest CSA box delivery from just a couple of days ago, so the flavour of the soup was outstanding. I used some of my homemade chicken stock from the freezer, to which I barely add any salt, so this soup was definitely as low sodium as you can get! If you do not have any homemade chicken stock on hand, I recommend using PC Blue Menu Reduced Sodium Chicken Stock. The recipe suggests pureeing the soup only slightly, so there are still broccoli pieces in the soup, however knowing my children’s aversion to chunky soups, I opted to puree the soup until all the vegetables were liquified. I love it when my children say, “Mami, make this again!” and that’s exactly what they were saying today!

I actually started preparing the Green Onion Pancakes first (though why they’re called pancakes is beyond me, since they resemble more a flatbread). Despite the blogger’s command to, “make them now, you won’t regret it”, I quickly became skeptical that these would turn out (I mean, hot water added to flour and  a little salt hardly sounds or looks appetizing, I don’t care how many green onions you add to it!). So while I put the dough to rest for 30 minutes as per the recipe’s instructions, I decided I’d better make the quick bread, too (besides, I still had lots of green onions available)! The quick bread looks so tasty in the picture on the website, and everything I have ever tried making from “Best Recipes Ever” has always been a success, so I thought for sure it would be a winner. Well, the quick bread tasted quite bland and I was so glad I had continued making the “pancakes”, because they were truly amazing  to the point that I will overlook the fact they are made entirely with white flour and are fried in oil, which is so not in line with the purpose of this blog! Given that the quick bread has whole wheat flour and is baked (not fried), I will try it one more time, except I’ll add a little more salt and some (or maybe lots of) grated cheddar cheese.

So, if you have a bunch of green onions and broccoli in your fridge, I highly recommend making this soup. And if you have a little extra time on your hands and would like to try out something different, I highly recommend making the “pancakes” to accompany the soup. If you decide to make the quick bread with my modifications, please let me know how it turns out!

Here are a few photos of my “in-progress” lunch preparations:

This is the soup just before I pureed it, thickened it, and simmered it for 5 more minutes.

 

These are the “pancakes” just before I added the green onions and then fried them in olive oil.

 

This is the quick bread before I placed it onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper and baked it in the oven for 35 minutes.

Are you part of a CSA? What is your favourite part about receiving your box of vegetables?!