Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Barley Pilaf, Two Ways

When I cook with barley, it always seems to really sticks to my ribs. That heartiness makes it one of wintertime's favorite comfort foods. Barley is a grain, and shares many of the same nutritional values as corn. That means it's a good source of minerals, especially copper, magnesium, and phosphorus. However, it's best health benefit is from the fiber it provides. Similar to oats, the fiber in barley works to lower cholesterol.

That's just part of the good news about barley. Mix it up with some vegetables, along with some sauteed garlic and onions, and there's a Mediterranean or Italian side dish that's tasty and nutritious.


(Mediterranean style)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup olives, chopped
2 Tbs sunflower seeds
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbs Italian style salad dressing


(Italian style)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 Tbs pine nuts
2 Tbs Italian style salad dressing


Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the barley. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and let cook until barley is tender, about 40 minutes. Combine with vegetable ingredients. Add dressing, and mix well.

Serves 4

Stealthy Cooking Tip: Those who already like vegetables will appreciate the Mediterranean version of this barley pilaf. Those who aren't sure about vegetables might like the Italian version better. Sometimes the size of the vegetables matters, too. When you're chopping vegetables experiment with size. If they're chopped large, say 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch, everyone can tell what they are. If they're chopped, or minced fairly small, say 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch, it's hard to tell what is what. Also, the vegetables in the Italian version can be quickly cooked in the microwave for 1 or two minutes to soften the flavor. If cut small and cooked, they'll seem to augment the flavor, rather than make a visual addition. However, the vegetable goodness remains!

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