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Welcome Back an Old Pal: Barley

April 11, 2001|MARION CUNNINGHAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Barley always used to be on hand in the kitchen cupboard as a welcome answer for a quick supper. But I don't remember having it in either someone's home or at a restaurant lately.

Barley was probably the first cereal cultivated by man. In Scotland, it is exceedingly popular, used in soups as a thickener, as a porridge, in cakes and in the distillation of Scotch whisky. The Scots know a good thing when they taste it.

Hulled barley, available in health food stores, has had the outer hull removed. It takes longer to cook than the more familiar pearl barley, which has had both hull and germ removed, leaving small, cream-colored balls that look like pearls. Cooked barley has a mild flavor and chewy texture.

This recipe for Barley Casserole can make a simple satisfying supper by itself served with a green salad.

Barley Casserole

Active Work Time: 25 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes * Vegetarian

1 small onion

1/4 green bell pepper

1/4 pound mushrooms

3 cups water or chicken broth

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 cup pearl barley

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Salt, pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

To dice the onion, cut the root top and stem bottom off the onion, then cut the onion in half from the stem end down. Place each onion half flat side down on the work surface. Slice each half lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices, then crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.

Cut the pepper lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips, then cut it crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.

Using a dampened paper towel or cloth and wipe the mushrooms free of any grit or dirt. Break off the caps from the stems. Cut the caps into 4 pieces. Cut the stems into 4 pieces. Set aside.

Place the water or chicken broth into a saucepan and heat to boiling. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted swirl and tilt the pan so the butter spreads evenly over the bottom of the pan. Add the barley and onion and stir, cooking until the onion is a little softened but not browned, 5 minutes. Then add the green pepper, mushrooms and walnuts, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 more minutes.

Put the barley mixture into a 6-cup casserole, stir in the heated broth and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to blend all ingredients well. Put on a lid and bake for 1 hour. Check after 40 minutes and stir the mixture, cover and finish baking until the barley and vegetables are soft, 20 more minutes. Serve.

4 servings. Each serving: 297 calories; 767 mg sodium; 31 mg cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 8 saturated fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 3.49 grams fiber.

*

Cunningham's newest book is "Learning to Cook With Marion Cunningham" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999).

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