Learning As I Chop

Experimenting with Grains: Barley Edition

Posted in Baking/Cooking by R @ Learning As I Chop on July 31, 2010

Yesterday I was thinking about dinner and decided I wanted to try something new. Inspired by other blogs, I was in the mood to use a grain I hadn’t prepared before. For some reason, barley immediately came to mind. Barley, though I eat it rarely, surprisingly reminds me of my childhood. There’s something comfortably mushy (in a good way) and filling about it. Combine some cooked barley with mushrooms and it’s a meal. So I proceeded as usual – searched epicurious – and found this recipe. I wasn’t sure H would like it, so I whipped up some standard staples for safety (chicken schnitzel and salad) and dug in. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 12 ounces coarsely chopped button and/or crimini mushrooms
  • 1 large portobello mushroom, gills removed, cap and stem chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 5 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add all mushrooms; sauté until golden brown, adding 1 to 3 tablespoons water if mixture is dry, about 15 minutes. Stir in herbs and garlic. Add barley and stir 1 minute. Add 4 cups broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until liquid is almost absorbed and barley is almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir 1 cup broth and tomato paste into barley. Cook uncovered until barley is tender and mixture is creamy, stirring occasionally and adding more broth if necessary, about 10 minutes. Stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Here’s a picture of the preparations. I love showing chopping pictures because they make me feel professional.

I had a great picture of everything in the pot, but it’s gone missing. Looked like an asian-style mushroom soup.

Barley is easy to prepare and reminds me of couscous. In fact, I would probably say that couscous is its toastier cousin. When making the recipe I omitted the thyme, since it ruins every dish for me,  the tomato paste and the portobello since H hates them. I wanted a simple flavor and felt the tomato paste would take this recipe in a direction I wasn’t interested in heading. Normally it’s a gamble to tweak a recipe before you first try it as is, but I figured why not. H already had stuff he could eat and I could always microwave some soup if I failed. But I’m glad I listened to my gut. The dish came out great! Velvety and creamy without any milk or butter. Filling, comforting and tasty. I definitely recommend this dish but H and I agree that it’s more of a cold-weather thing. Guess I know what I’ll be making this November!

Admittedly, the dish could use more color (I guess that’s where the thyme helps) but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice taste for beauty.

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