Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Barley - An Untapped Grain

Usually when I talk to my students about barley, I tell them the number one use is beer production, followed by livestock feed.  And that is really all that I say about barley.  In the United States, we don't consume much barley, at least not as barley.  However, since starting this blog, I have been on a mission to find more uses for barley.  After all, why should the brew masters have all the fun. 

Barley has a chewy texture and a nutty flavor, similar to brown rice.  Basically, you can use barley the same way you use rice.   It can be used in stir-fries and pilafs.  Next time you want to make a rice dish, try using barley instead. 

There three types of barley:
  • Dehulled or Hulless  - The hull has been removed, but the bran remains.  It requires the longest amount of time to cook.
  • Pearled - The hull and the bran have been removed. 
  • Quick Cooking - This type has been rolled flat and requires about 10 minutes to cook.
Regardless of your choice, they are all excellent additions to your diet.

Barley, Feta, and Pear Salad

Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as a side dish.


¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
cup pearl barley
½ cup packed flat-leafed parsley
1 celery rib
½ small head radicchio
1 pear, unpeeled
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste


1.  Preheat oven to 375°F. Toast the walnuts until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.

2.  Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and barley.  Stir.  Partially cover and cook until barley is tender, about 30 minutes.

3.  Chop parsley and celery.  Slice radicchio into thin strips.  Core and chop the pear.  Combine all ingredients, along with the walnuts in a large bowl.  Drain barley and allow to cool.  Add barley and the feta cheese to the mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Add lemon juice and olive oil.  Stir to combine. 

If desired, red wine vinegar can be used instead of the lemon juice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Roasting Vegetables

I am not sure who came up with the idea of roasting vegetables.  Up until a few years ago, I had never heard of roasting vegetables.  Now recipes for roasting vegetables are everywhere.  And why not, it's soooooo easy!  And once you roast vegetables, there are a number of things you can do with them. 


What to do with Roasted Vegetables:
  • Drizzle them with a little balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • Make soup
  • Use them in a quiche (trust me, a real man will eat this one)
  • Use them in a frittata or omelet
  • Use on a pizza

Basics of Making Roasted Vegetables:
  • About one pound of vegetables will serve 4 people.
  • Cut all vegetables roughly the same size, so finish cooking at about the same time
  • Choose a variety of colors and flavors, such as carrots, potatoes, rutabaga and sweet potatoes or pumpkin
  • Bell peppers and onions can be added, but should be added about half way through
  • Roast in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet
  • Use a metal pan, which will help the vegetables crisp up
  • Vegetables roast best in a very hot oven, around 400° to 425°F
  • Keep the seasonings simple, a little salt and pepper is about all that is really needed.  If desired, toss warm vegetables with fresh parsley and a little lemon juice
  • Coat vegetables evenly with oil.  I prefer olive oil, but any oil will work
  • Roasting vegetables requires about 30 to 45 minutes

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Food Trends of 2013

I just love food trends. I am not sure why.  Maybe it's the foodie/wanna be statistician in me.  But they are just plain fun.  So, of course I had to find out what the top food trends were for 2013.  I checked out several sources, 'cause that's what us science folks do.  Food Network had Eight Top Food Trends of 2013.   It sounds like they got tired and just could not get to ten.  Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but I feel a little shortchanged with only eight.  had thirteen categories and each is divided into front burner and back burner segments.  Wonder if they had more people at the table, umh!

According to one resource, kale is out.  I'm all for eating kale, but kale chips?  Not so sure about those.  One resource had cauliflower rising to the top.  Still in the cruciferous family.  In 2011, sweet potatoes were the new 'in' food.  While I am not sure about the accuracy of these lists, I am very happy to see vegetables making the top of the list.  It feels like vegetables are finally getting their due respect.

In keeping with this 'trend thing' and my recent trip to Sicily, I'm cooking a dish with pasta and cauliflower.  Americans seem to believe that pasta dishes must be drowned in sauces, especially tomato sauce.  But Italian pasta dishes are so much more than pasta and sauces.  Italians make very good use of vegetables. 

For this dish, I am using Lidia Bastianich's book, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy.  I did adapt the recipe somewhat.  I did not have fresh cavatelli pasta.  I used dried campanelle pasta and cooked the pasta and cauliflower in the same water. 

Pasta with Cauliflower

Serves 6.

½ teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for pasta pot
1 large head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 pound dried pasta
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
7 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Fill a large pot with water and about 1 tablespoon salt.  Heat to boiling. 

2.  Add cauliflower and cook for about 1 minute.  Add pasta and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, about 5 minutes.

3.  Preheat a large skillet.  Pour in the olive oil.  Toss in the sliced garlic.  Add red pepper flakes and parsley; stir and cook for about one minute.  Add about ½ cup of the pasta water.  Reduce heat and simmer until ready to add the pasta. 

4.  Drain pasta and cauliflower.  Add to skillet.  Toss pasta and cauliflower until they are coated with the sauce.

5.   Turn off the heat.  Add the cheese and toss again.  Heap the pasta into warm bowls.  Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired.