Jan 3, 2015

This Incredible Thing Called BARLEY

So what is this thing called barley and what makes it so incredible? Barley has been around for a long time, more than 17,000 years ago, humans gathered the seeds of plants and ate them. It was one of the first domesticated cereals. It's a member of the grass family that was widely eaten by peasants in Medieval Europe, and was probably used in one of the first alcoholic drinks developed by Neolithic humans. Considered a whole grain, de-hulled barley still has its bran and germ, making it a nutritious and a popular health food. I hate calling barley a health food because so many health foods just don't appeal to most people. I like to think of it as a rice substitute that tastes better, and is much better for you, with more substance and flavor. Listen to these health benefits:

• Whole grain barley is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals essential to health.

• The U.S. FDA has allowed barley foods to claim that they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

• Barley, like all whole grains, reduces blood pressure.

• Eating barley has been shown to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

• A flood of recent research indicates that barley's ability to control blood sugar may be exceptional, offering an important tool against rising rates of diabetes.

• Barley has more protein than corn, brown rice, millet, sorghum or rye, and is higher in fiber and lower in soluble (starch) carbohydrates than almost all other whole grains. While the fiber in most grains is concentrated largely in the outer bran layer, barley's fiber is found throughout the whole grain.

• Barley may help you feel full longer, and thereby help you control your weight.
Barley – even pearl barley – may help reduce visceral fat and waist circumference.

Pearl barley (or pearled barley) as we know it in the grocery store, is dehulled barley which has been steam processed further to remove the bran. It may be polished, a process known as "pearling". Dehulled or pearl barley may be processed into a variety of barley products, including flour, flakes similar to oatmeal, and grits. For me, the best use of barley is in rustic soups and stews, and in barley bread.

Barley is used commercially for animal feed, to produce malt (an important ingredient in beer production), for seed and for human food applications. Approximately 51 percent of the barley crop consumed in the US is used for animal feed. Forty-four percent is used for malt production, 3 percent as seed and only 2 percent for food products. In addition to domestic use of barley, exports of the grain averaged about $155 million for barley and its milled products, $44 million for malt and malt extracts and $269 million for beer between 1991 and 2000.

Barley is the fourth largest grain crop after wheat, rice and corn. It is grown in many different countries throughout the world. Besides the US, producers include Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. Barley is grown in 42 states in the U.S. North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland, South Dakota, Oregon and Utah are the biggest producers.

If you haven't discovered barley, first check out these recipes, then look for it in your grocery store. Most recipes call for "pearl barley", some "whole grain barley", and others, "barley flour". Buy it, take it home, then try one of the recipes below.

Barley & Bone Marrow
2/3 cup pearl barley
4 8-inch long grass-fed beef marrow bones cut lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
8 Ritz crackers, crushed, or bread crumbs
parsley leaves for garnish

In medium saucepan with lid, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup pearl barley and return to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Makes about 2 cups. While the barley is cooking, place the beef marrow bones on a foil lined cookie sheet cut side up. Sprinkle each bone with a little salt. Roast the bones for 15 minutes at 400˚F. Remove the marrow from the bones in small pieces with a small spoon, and add it to the cooked barley. Add the chopped parsley and Cajun seasoning and stir the mixture. Return the mixture to the bones and sprinkle each bone liberally with crushed Ritz crackers or bread crumbs.

Place the bones back on the cookie sheet and put it on the middle shelf of your oven. Broil on medium just until the crackers are toasted, a minute or so (watch carefully). Serve immediately, garnished with parsley leaves. Serve with a small spoon, like a grapefruit spoon. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

Note: If you can't get the bones cut lengthwise, cut them across the bone about 2 inches in length, 4 bones per serving, however the stuffing is much easier to remove if the bones are cut lengthwise.

Sausage & Eggs with Barley
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups chicken broth
12 ounces bulk turkey sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley leaves
4 eggs
Salt and pepper

In medium saucepan with lid bring chicken broth to a boil. Add barley; return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Set cooked barley aside. Crumble sausage into large skillet. Add chopped onions; sauté over medium heat until sausage is browned. Drain off fat. Add cooked barley and parsley to sausage. Stir and continue to cook until barley begins to brown. Spoon barley-sausage mixture into 4 large ramekins or other oven-safe single-serving dishes. Break an egg over each serving. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in 375°F oven for 10 minutes or until eggs are set. Makes 4 servings.

Tuna-Barley Salad 
with Herbed Lemon Dressing
Ingredients for salad:
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup green bell pepper strips
1/2 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup sliced zucchini
2 cans (6-1/2 ounces each) tuna packed in water, drained

Ingredients for herbed lemon dressing:
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Combine barley and chicken broth in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Cool. In the meantime, steam or microwave broccoli and cauliflower florets about 2 minutes or until partially cooked. Cool. Combine broccoli and cauliflower with cooked barley, peppers, zucchini and tuna. Combine ingredients for Herbed Lemon Dressing; fold into barley mixture and toss gently. Makes 6 servings.

Asian Barley-Chicken Salad
1/2 cup pearl or whole grain barley
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 pound snow peas
2 cups cooked and cubed chicken
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained
4 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup prepared teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot or ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

In medium saucepan with lid, bring water to a boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. (If using whole grain barley, it may be necessary to increase cooking time to 50-55 minutes. It may also be necessary to drain off any unabsorbed liquid after cooking.) Cook carrots in boiling water for 5 minutes. Add snow peas and cook 1 minute longer or until carrots and snow peas are tender-crisp. Rinse cooked vegetables and drain. Combine cooked barley, cooked vegetables, chicken, water chestnuts and green onions. Blend together oil, teriyaki sauce, vinegar, gingerroot and garlic powder in a small bowl. Pour over barley salad and mix well. Cover salad and refrigerate until chilled. Makes 6 servings.

Greek Barley Salad
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small green or red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

In medium saucepan with lid bring water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano and 1/4 teaspoon salt; pour over hot cooked barley. Cool to room temperature. Gently stir in onions, parsley, tomatoes, bell pepper and feta cheese. Serve salad chilled or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Barley-Lentil Soup
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
7 cups salt-reduced, fat-free chicken broth, divided
1-1/2 cups small fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme, crushed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Spray 4-quart saucepan with non-stick cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and celery; sauté 3 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Mix in 6 cups broth, mushrooms, lentils, barley, tomato paste, thyme, curry powder and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 60 to 70 minutes or until lentils and barley are tender, but not mushy. Blend in remaining broth, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Baked Chicken with Apples and Barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium tart green apple, chopped
1-2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup whole grain barley kernels
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (or a little minced garlic)
3 tablespoons orange marmalade or apricot jam

Heat oil in large skillet; sauté onion, bell peppers and garlic 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chopped apple and curry powder; sauté 4 minutes longer. Stir in barley and chicken broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes.

Pour barley mixture into large baking dish or casserole. Arrange chicken breasts over barley and season with garlic salt. Cover and bake in 375º F oven for 45 minutes. Remove cover; brush chicken with marmalade. Continue to bake, uncovered, 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Barley Burgers
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon prepared steak sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 avocado, seeded and scooped out
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon Asian chili sauce
6 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
6 lettuce leaves
6 slices tomatoes

In 1-quart saucepan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in barley; brown for 2 minutes, stirring. Add water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 35 minutes. Cool. In large mixing bowl combine cold barley, ground beef, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Add egg and mix until mixture is blended. Form into 6 patties. In large skillet heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add patties and cook for 4 minutes per side. In the meantime, combine avocado, garlic salt and chili sauce in bowl. Coarsely mash and set aside. To assemble hamburgers, spread base of each bun with avocado mixture. Top with lettuce leaf, tomato slice, burger and another spoonful of avocado mixture. Place on top of bun and serve. Makes 6 burgers.

Beef Barley Chili
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 can (28 ounces) cut tomatoes
1 cup water
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto or red beans, undrained
Grated Cheddar cheese or crumbled tortilla chips, for garnish

Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy 4 to 5-quart pan over medium heat. Add ground beef and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until beef is no longer pink. Add barley, tomatoes, water, chili powder and salt. Cover and cook 30 minutes over medium-low heat. Add undrained beans and continue to cook 15 to 20 minutes to blend flavors and finish cooking barley. Serve in bowls topped with grated cheese or crumbled tortilla chips, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Barley
6 large tomatoes
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup pearl barley
2-1/4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
Additional pecan halves, for garnish

Cut tops from tomatoes. Scoop out pulp and reserve to use in soups or sauces. Sprinkle centers of tomatoes with salt and pepper. Invert tomatoes on paper towels to drain. In a medium saucepan with lid, bring water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon butter to boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. In a small skillet, sauté chopped pecans in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add pecans to cooked barley along with chopped bell pepper and green onion. Fill tomatoes with barley mixture. Place filled tomatoes close together in baking pan. Add 1/4 cup water to pan. Cover with foil and bake at 375° F for 20 minutes. Garnish each tomato with a pecan half, if desired, and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Rustic Barley Bread with Sunflower Seeds
Not only does this crusty bread have a wonderful nutty flavor, it has a distinct texture from the barley and whole wheat flour, not to mention the sunflower seeds. The other thing is that it's easy to make, and you don't even need to use a hand mixer. This bread keeps very well for 4 or 5 days.

2 1/4 cups barley flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups white bread flour
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Special equipment: large bowl (large enough to knead the bread in with your hands), plastic wrap, Dutch oven for baking the bread, parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add the flours, the yeast, sugar, and sunflower seeds, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil, water and salt. Mix with your hands until you have a rough dough and then start kneading. It will need about 5 minutes of kneading before you have a pliable dough that’s not sticking to your hands or to the sides of the bowl but remains slightly sticky. The dough will be kind of heavy due to the type of flours used, it will not be airy and light like a dough made exclusively with white flour.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place, allowing the dough to proof and double in size. It will take about 45 minutes to proof, depending on how warm the room you leave it in is, 80˚ to 85˚ is ideal.

Once the dough has proofed, take it out of the bowl and knead it for a few seconds just to deflate it a bit on a clean surface (don’t flour the surface). It should feel smooth, somewhat soft and not sticky. Shape it into a ball and then press the top to flatten it. Using a large knife, slash the top three times and then, using a Dutch oven, take a large piece of parchment paper, crimp it and line the Dutch oven with it. Place the dough on the parchment paper, put on the lid and place Dutch oven in the oven that has been preheated to 435˚F. Immediately turn heat down to 375˚F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for about 25 minutes more, until the bread has taken on a golden brown color and the interior temperature reaches 200˚F. As a general rule, a bread loaf is ready when it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for up to an hour before slicing. Makes one loaf.

Barley Scones with Lemon Glaze
Ingredients for Scones:
1 cup barley flour
1 cup all-purpose wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries (may substitute currants, raisins or dried cherries)
1 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel

Ingredients for Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In large bowl, mix together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in cranberries. Mix in milk, butter, egg and grated lemon peel. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto baking sheet, creating 12 equal portions. Bake at 375° F for 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool scones slightly. Combine Lemon Glaze ingredients; stir until smooth. Use pastry brush to glaze tops of cooled scones. Makes 12 scones.

Barley Pudding
This is a Scottish recipe that is usually served as a dessert or for breakfast as a nice change from oatmeal.

1 cup pearl barley
1/3 cup currants, or chopped soft prunes, or chopped dates
1/3 cup golden raisin
4 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
superfine sugar, to serve with the pudding
light cream, to serve with the pudding

Mix the barley and water in a heavy-based saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one-and-a-half hours, stirring occasionally. Add the currants, raisins and salt and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with sugar and the cream. Makes 6 servings.

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