Thursday, February 24, 2011
Is barley an official super food? I'm not sure, actually. But it probably should be. It was, after all, beer and bread made from barley that gave Egyptian slaves the strength to build the pyramids. And it's always been known to be inexpensive, the poor person's wheat during the Middle Ages. So inexpensive and energy-giving. It's also easy to find, and easy to make. And really, very easy to make delicious. I love having salads such as this one, made early in the week, just sitting in the fridge for lunching or snacking or sneaking spoonfuls in between. Especially during the winter when I crave fresh food and brighter flavors and bowlfuls of things that haven't been endlessly boiled. It's so healthy with the barley and apple, and even uses apple juice in the dressing in place of much of the oil. If you have a juicer you can just juice your own apples, which is completely worth the effort. Fresh juice makes the dressing so good you'll be tempted to drink it straight.
The recipe is from a book I bought once for about 10 cents on some remainder table called Conscious Cuisine by Cary Neff. I think the price reflects the layout which looks suspiciously like a mid-90s high school text book with colored sidebars for ingredient lists and nutrition information. But you know what they say about books and covers. Because this salad is wonderful and is one of two really great recipes I've made from the book so far (the other is coming up). Neff calls simply for 'barley' in the recipe, but there are several kinds available. The most common, pearl barley, has had the husk, bran and germ milled away, but it cooks quickly and is still quite nutritious. If you can find it, hull-less barley is not as messed-around-with, is chewier and nuttier tasting. These days you can also find rolled barley which looks a lot like rolled oats. You can really use any of these types in this recipe, whatever you can find. You'll have to adjust cooking times and perhaps the amount of liquid you use, but that should all be specified on the package.
Adapted from Cary Neff's Conscious Cuisine
1 cup barley, whatever kind you prefer or can find
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup mined fresh parsley
1/2 cup minced fresh mint
1 medium apple, your favorite kind, unpeeled, cored and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
Pinch salt and a grinding of pepper to taste
For the salad, toast the barley in a dry pot over medium heat for a few moments until light brown, about 3 minutes. Be sure to stir so it doesn't burn. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the liquid simmers, cover the pot and simmer for 25 minutes. The barley should be soft. Remove from the heat and if there is extra liquid that hasn't been absorbed, drain it off.
Transfer the barley to a serving bowl and toss with the parsley, mint and apple.
For the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, apple juice, vinegar and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the barley and toss to coat. Refrigerate until cold before serving, at least 30 minutes.