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BARLEY MAKES GOOD ADDITION TO DISHES

When the children's music vocalist, Raffi, touted a list of garden grains, plain old barley disappeared in the lyrics behind oats, peas and beans.

According to the childhood verse, barley gets no respect.Barley claims an ignominious position with more than the preschool set.

It's the grain with a Rodney Dangerfield label.

The lowly grain sits on the bottom shelf of the grocery store, lingers at the back of the recipe file or suffers from overall lack of recognition with an occasional supporting role in soups or stews.

But the nutty flavor and chewy texture of the grain clamor for a show-stopper position. Barley is a natural stand-in for traditional rice or pasta dishes likes pilafs, stuffings or salads.

Though pearl barley, the most commonly used of the grain products, requires a long cooking time, it stores well. Regular or medium pearl barley takes 45 minutes to one hour to prepare, but quick pearl barley, which is rolled and steamed before packaging, takes only 10 minutes to cook.

Because barley stores well, it is easy to prepare a batch and freeze it in one-cup portions for quick addition to breads, meat loaf, stuffing or salad.

Like its other grainy neighbors, barley expands during the cooking process. One cup uncooked pearl barley yields between three and four cups of cooked barley.

The "pearl" of the barley is actually the leftover of the hulling and polishing process. In its natural state, the barley kernel is enclosed in a tough hull, a layer that is removed for cooking use.

Even though barley requires extensive processing to reach the table, the hearty grain maintains its nutritional values and boasts a higher protein content, ounce for ounce, than any other grain. A rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, it also contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals while claiming both low fat and low sodium status.

When the overall performance is considered, lowly barley ought to be elevated to a loftier position.

The grain deserves a little respect, please.

*****

(Recipes)

Country Corn and Barley Vinaigrette

1 cup pearl barley

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup fresh or frozen corn

1/3 cup salad oil

1/4 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh basil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup red or green pepper, diced

2 green onions, sliced

Combine barley, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Add corn and simmer 15 minutes. Combine oil, vinegar, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Pour over warm barley and toss to coat; cool. Add tomatoes, pepper and onions; chill 2-3 hours. Serve as a hearty relish or a salad in lettuce cups.

- Each serving contains 160 calories; 7 gm fat; 224 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.

*****

(Recipes)

Barley Salad Nicoise

1 cup pearl barley

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cauliflower florets

1 cup zucchini, sliced

1/2 cup red bell pepper strips

1/2 cup green bell pepper strips

2 cans (61/2 oz.) tuna packed in water

Creamy Herb Dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt

2 tablespoons celery, minced

2 tablespoons green onion, minced

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste Combine barley and chicken broth; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed; cool. In the meantime, steam or microwave broccoli and cauliflower about 2 minutes or until partially cooked; cool. Combine broccoli and cauliflower with cooked barley, peppers, zucchini and tuna. Fold in dressing; toss gently. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley or cilantro sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

For dressing, combine all ingredients and chill 1 hour to blend flavors.

- Each serving contains 401 calories; 25 gm fat; 793 mg sodium; 51 mg cholesterol.

Barley and Pine Nut Pilaf

1 cup pearl barley

5 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 cup green onions, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

31/3 cups chicken broth Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse barley in cold water and drain. In a l0-inch skillet, heat butter and brown pine nuts. Remove with slotted spoon and reserve. Saute green onions and barley until lightly toasted; remove from heat. Stir in nuts, parsley, salt and pepper. Spoon into ungreased 2-quart casserole. Heat broth to boiling and pour over barley mixture; stir to blend well. Bake, uncovered for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

- Each serving contains 205 calories; 16 gm fat; 1066 mg sodium; 27 mg cholesterol.

Salad of Lamb, Barley and Green Beans

8 ounces green beans, trimmed

1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups barley, cooked

1 pound leftover lamb, thinly sliced

Fresh mint and basil

Fresh Mint Vinaigrette:

2/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

2 plum tomatoes, finely diced For salad, bring saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the beans, simmer for 3 minutes. Rinse under cold, drain well and pat dry. Toss the beans in a mixing bowl with yogurt, basil, salt and pepper. Loosely cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Toss the barley with 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Loosely cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, arrange the lamb slices on individual plates. Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of vinaigrette over the lamb. Arrange the bean mixture and the barley on the plates; garnish with mint and basil sprigs. Makes 4 servings.

For dressing, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar together; stir in mint and tomatoes. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Makes 11/2 cups.

- From The New Basics Cookbook

Wild Mushroom and Barley Soup

1 tablespoon safflower oil

2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

11/4 cups shiitake mushrooms

11/4 cups button mushrooms

4 cups beef stock

1/2 cup pearl barley

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper Heat oil in large pot; add the leeks and cook until soft but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms; cook 5 minutes.

Blend in beef stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and add the barley. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until barley is tender, about 1 hour. Add dill, salt and pepper and cook 10 minutes longer. Makes 4 servings.

- Each serving contains 163 calories; 5 gm fat; 426 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.

Shanghai Chicken Stir Fry

1 can (101/2 oz.) low sodium chicken broth

2/3 cup water

1 cup quick pearl barley

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

3 chicken breasts, split, boned, skinned and cubed

1 can (8 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained

1 cup red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup fresh or frozen pea pods

1/2 cup green onions, sliced

1 tablespoon light soy sauce Bring chicken broth and water to a boil; stir in barley. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 10-12 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes; set aside. In large skillet, saute garlic and ginger in oil over high heat for 15 seconds. Add chicken; stir fry 2-3 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add vegetables; cook 1 minute. Add barley and soy sauce; cook until heated through. Makes 6 servings.

- Each serving contains 269 calories; 4 gm fat; 275 mg sodium; 45 mg cholesterol.

German Beef and Barley Bake

1 pound extra lean ground beef

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 cup pearl barley

4 slices bacon, diced

3 cups tomato juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3-4 cups cabbage, sliced

2 teaspoons caraway seed

1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated Saute beef, onion and garlic until beef is browned; drain. Add barley and bacon. Saute 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomato juice, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in cabbage and caraway seed. Spoon barley mixture into 2-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese melts. Makes 6 servings.

- Each serving contains 423 calories; 18 gm fat; 774 mg sodium; 91 mg cholesterol.