The Whole Grain Series, Part 2: Barley

barleyThe Whole Grain Series, Part 2

With cold weather here, warming foods have tremendous appeal. Barley dishes are especially appealing. Barley has a nutty flavor and works well in soups and warm salads. It has a great nutritional profile. It is reputed to be good for the skin.

Here are two recipes for winter salads using barley. A prepared batch of barley can be used for both dishes. These are non-recipe recipes, meaning that the ingredients do not have to be measured exactly. I give you a guideline. You assemble the dish according to your taste. 

Each one gets half of the cooked barley. Your two cups of barley will turn into three cups of cooked barley. The grain expands in the cooking process. Two dishes from one batch of barley.

Make two cups of barley according to package directions.

A cup of barley to a cup and a half of water, salted and simmered for thirty minutes until soft. You now have the ingredient for a warm salad. Use a pan to boil the barley or use the mini rice cooker from Wolfgang Puck, a convenience tool for the dysphagia kitchen.

(For further information, see the tool review, otherwise known as the kitchen appliance review, on this website.)

As to seasonings: I love the taste of soy combined with barley. I recommend seasoning the barley with a dash of lower sodium soy sauce. If you are on a diet that eliminates soy, use the mixed amino acids faux soy sauce that will give you the same flavor. Available at whole foods stores. Or use Himalayan salt which has a mineral taste, more complex than regular sea salt or table salt. You could also use the Chinese condiment of Oyster Sauce, often used to impart a complex flavor to vegetable stir fries. I use white pepper with whole grains, for ease of swallow.

Diane’s Winter Slaw

Take ½ of a small red cabbage and ½ of a small white cabbage and put through the slicer of a food processor or through a mandoline. If you have good knife skills, simply slice thinly.  

I like to pan sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or grapeseed oil  a couple of shallots sliced thinly until they wilt, about a minute. Add some baby carrot matchsticks until they wilt. If you care to, add some matchsticks of golden delicious apple or Fuji or Gala, any mild apple for a minute. Add the cabbage and stir fry until the cabbage wilts. Add 2 tablespoons of water, lower the heat and simmer until the slaw is tender. Add a tablespoon of Oyster Sauce or to taste. Add a small sprinkle of finely ground white pepper. Add a cup of cooked barley and stir into the mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings.

For the Puree

Take one half cup of the slaw and one half cup of cooked barley. Add this salad a cup at a time to the bowl of a food processor or to the pitcher of a blender and pulse. Puree until smooth. Add more barley if thickness is desired. Add more slaw to thin. If you are using an extractor, you don’t pulse. Just puree and watch it. 

If you have the Nutribullet Rx, you can add the cabbage and veggies to the machine with some vegetable broth from the raw state. Put it on the soup cycle and let it go. At the end, add barley to thicken and use it on the regular cycle for short bursts until thoroughly combined. Taste. Adjust seasonings.

Diane’s Grilled Mushroom and Barley Salad

This non-recipe uses part of the batch of barley that you cooked previously. If it is not warm, then put it in an oven-safe dish, season with a tablespoon of good oil and salt and white pepper, with a tablespoon of lemon juice if you like lemon juice. Warm in the oven at 250 degrees for ten minutes or so, while you prepare and grill the mushrooms.

Pick the best mushrooms at your farmer’s market or your regular market, meaning baby bellas, crimini, portobello, oyster, or Maitake. Chanterelles will do for this recipe, but they are pricey. morelles, of course, are the ultimate gourmet mushroom. Buying sliced mushrooms is permissible.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel, cut into slices for the grill, so the mushroom will lay flat, about a quarter inch thick. The mushrooms will be pureed, so the object is to get a caramelization on the mushroom, for maximum flavor. You do not want crisp, burned edges, as these will be bad for the swallow. 

In a stainless steel bowl, combine some extra virgin olive oil and a dash of lower sodium soy sauce with a dash of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of white pepper. This is all to taste. Be sparing with the salt because you are adding soy, but the salt balances out the flavor of the soy. This marinade can also have sliced garlic as a component or a clove of garlic mashed in a garlic press. You can add a quarter teaspoon of freshly minced thyme, as thyme is the perfect herb for mushrooms. 

I arrange the mushrooms on my indoor grill. Sometimes I use the metal plate for sautéing veggies that you can buy in the barbecue section of your market.

You can also use a small sauté pan for sautéing mushrooms on the grill. If you don’t have an indoor grill, use a sauté pan on high heat.

You want maximum mushroom contact with the grill. The object is to caramelize the mushrooms for flavor. You wait until the first side is golden, a couple of minutes, then you flip the mushrooms over and give the second side a couple of minutes. They will have a little texture and will not go completely limp. 

When the mushrooms are golden brown, remove from the grill and add to the warmed barley. Use the marinade to dress the barley to taste. Optional here is a teaspoon of minced fresh Italian parsley.

The mushrooms will give off a liquid on the grill or in the pan. If you can tilt the grill and pour it into the barley, please do. Mushrooms sautéed in a pan will also give off a flavorful liquor. Please use it. 

Variation: I sometimes sauté a clove of minced garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil or any other vegetable oil, I add two cups of baby spinach and stir fry in the oil until it is wilted. I add this to the barley and mushrooms. Aside from the fact that spinach is a nutrient-rich leafy green, it adds variety and color to the dish. Garlic is a classic flavor with mushrooms. For the puree, simply add a half cup of the greens to the mushrooms and barley in the food processor or blender. Spinach gives off a lot of liquid when cooking. Save this and use it for the puree. It is green and will turn the dish green, something to remember for a festive occasion.

For the Puree

Add one half to one cup of cooked barley, one half to one cup of grilled mushrooms pulse a few times to chop, then puree until smooth. Use the marinade for liquid, or vegetable broth, or water.

Note: You will find the recipe for the American comfort food classic, Mushroom Barley Soup, in the Essential Puree Guidebook.

FAQ: Why use whole grains?

The Essential Puree Guidebook recommends whole grains for their superior nutritional value.

According to the Mayo Clinic Diet, “Whole grains. These unrefined grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed by milling; therefore, all of the nutrients remain intact. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. Whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or ingredients in products, such as buckwheat in pancakes or whole wheat in bread.”

The fiber in whole grains is essential to keeping the digestive system detoxed and running smoothly. 

Image courtesy of wayneandwax via Flickr creative commons.