Meatless Monday: Barley stew with leeks, mushrooms and greens

2013-02-18 at 18-17-00

Judge my people on our entire history, not just the last 100 years.

After all, The Italians have not done well. I mean, they went all-in on Hitler. There’s a good chance that Prime Minister Bunga Bunga is going to run again. It hosts The Vatican and all of its wonderful contributions to society over the past century. And, its most unforgivable offense, inspiring The Olive Garden. You must look to the fact that my people brought you The Renaissance, opera (listen to Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma and tell me that isn’t just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard), Sophia Petrillo, salami and pancetta. It also brought us barley.

Okay, so The Italians did not quite invent barley, but (like pasta) they perfected it. One of the original ancient grains, barley dates back to the Stone Age. Like farro, barley is a hulled grain that is packed with an enormous amount of nutrients. In American cuisine, it’s most often found in soups or the odd salad. And, like farro, we should probably eat more of it. It’s filling, healthy and takes on the flavor of everything around it.

2013-02-18 at 17-24-27WHAT WORKED: Salt. The liquid cooked the barley down into a nice starchy stew with a lot of flavor. It was missing some seasoning.

WHAT DIDN’T: Cubic measure. I could have sworn that I had a cup of barley in the cabinet. Came up just short at six ounces. I backfilled with farro, since they both cook in the same basic manner.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: Nothing. I’m guessing that she liked it, but there was not a lot of feedback tonight.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: In some way shape or form. I think that any blend of greens would work here and that maybe some escarole or chard would spice it up a little bit. Maybe some lima or Great Northern beans too.

2013-02-18 at 18-17-05Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens
From Bon Appetit

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (about 2 small stalks; white and pale green parts only)
  • 8 oz. container sliced crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 1/4 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup pearl barley 4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch kale (about 8 oz.), trimmed, center stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 8 cups packed)

2013-02-18 at 17-38-58Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until leeks begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until mushrooms soften and begin to brown, stirring often, about 7 minutes.

2013-02-18 at 18-11-27Add tomatoes with juice; stir 1 minute. Add barley and 4 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until barley is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add kale; stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Cover and simmer until kale and barley are tender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed for desired stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

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