Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I'm a barley virgin. I know! To be over 40 and still a virgin at anything is an incredible feat! I've never cooked barley...thus, my virgin status.
Now I've eaten barley in vegetable soup, but that's been my only experience with it. And barley in canned soup is a mushy, tasteless mess. No wonder I didn't have any compulsion to expand my barley horizons.
But we're trying to eat more whole grains at Chez T., and barley is a terrific choice. It's full of fiber, has twice the protein of rice and, when made correctly, is nutty and slightly chewy and delicious.
My husband loved this side dish. Loved it. I think he even uttered a "wow" when he took his first bite. It takes a little longer to cook than rice, but it's worth it. The caramelized onions give it a rich, sweet depth and the mushrooms add satisfying heft. The peas and fresh herbs brighten the whole thing, and hey, who doesn't love a good scattering of nutty, salty cheese? The crunchy nuts on the top? Icing. We were smitten.
I served this to my husband as a side dish next to some grilled steak, but I went Veg-Head and just plopped my portion into a big bowl. Comfort food!
Baked Barley with Mushrooms and Herbs
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups mixed dried mushrooms, put in boiling water to re-hydrate
2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth, heated to a boil
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup toasted chopped pistachios or hazelnuts
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350.
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sugar; stir well to coat onions in butter. Cover the Dutch oven, reduce heat to low, and cook 25 minutes or until caramelized, stirring often.
Meanwhile, pour boiling water over dried mushrooms. Soak, drain and slice.
Add fresh and re-hydrated mushrooms to Dutch oven. Increase heat to medium and cook until mushrooms begin to soften and brown slightly, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add barley, soy sauce, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and boiling vegetable stock. Stir well to combine.
Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 1 hour or until barley is tender but still pleasantly chewy. Let stand 10 minutes. Add peas and stir to heat through.
Sprinkle toasted nuts over the dish, toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.