Friday, June 26, 2009

Grrrraaiiinnnssss (get it? Brains? Like a Zombie? ok fine)

Lately, I've been trying to learn about some of the funky grains you can find in the organic (marketing speak for "heath-conscious yuppie") isle at the supermarket. It all started with a Farro salad I found buried in cooking magazine, then I moved onto a recipe with a bulgur salad that was an instant hit (with me anyway.) The recipe, Bulgar Salad with Grilled Chicken and Parsley Pesto, is here, and if you grill the chicken inside, it's a great way to test your smoke detectors. Kate and I also made the Bulgur Salad portion again and added roasted zucchini, broccoli, and maybe asparagus to it; it made a pretty satisfying pre-vacation, clean out the fridge, meal.

Last night, I moved onto Barley, via Didi Emmons fabulous cookbook, Entertaining for a Veggie Planet. My mom bought me this book way back when I was a vegetarian, but, even though I've been omnivorous for a while now, I still pull this off the shelf more than any other book when I need something healthy and easy. So here, without further delay is:

Barley Salad with Dill and Lemon (plus asparagus and tofu)

Seriously, can you get any hippy-dippy than that? P.S. Yes, it's vegan.

1 2/3 cups dried pearl barley (available at the Garden for you Greenpointers)
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 large Granny Smith, Fugi or Gala Apple (I used Gala, and the red is nice)
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup raisins or currants
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 cup lemon juice plus 1 tsp. grated lemon rind (remember to get the rind before you juice it...I always forget)
3 TBs extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 bunch skinny asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 block extra-firm tofu

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the barley and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. My package of barley said to cook for an hour, but the 40 recommended here was fine--with the barley still having some texture to it. I think after an hour you'd have porridge. Drain and rinse the barley under tepid water. Drain well; the barley should still be warm.

2. In a large bowl, combine the scallions, apple, dill, currants or raisins, coriander, lemon juice and rind, and olive oil.

Those things minus the dill (Kate the Sous Chef was still chopping it)

Add the warm barley and mix well. Let stand for 20 minutes to give the barley a chance to absorb the seasonings.

This is the basic recipe, but I decided to add in another veggie and some protein. First I squished the weird tofu water out of the tofu, using paper towels. Then I chopped it into bite-sized pieces. Even though I was a veggie for 12 years, this was only my second time cooking tofu. The first time I couldn't get the nice brown crust on the tofu, but with more oil and patience I did it this time. So: Add enough olive oil to coat to a non-non stick pan (with a metal bottom). As you'll see, I don't actually have one of those (half-birthday present? anyone?), so you can use a non-stick pan, if it's all you have. Drop the tofu in, giving each piece enough room to breathe/brown and then wait. Don't touch it! Just let it brown up for a few minutes (this is where I went wrong the first time). Once you have one side of the soy-cubes browned, flip them over and throw in the asparagus. Throw in some salt and pepper.

Sautee the asparagus and tofu until the asparagus is bright green, but still a little firm. Then toss these buggers into the barley salad and stir everything together, adjusting the seasoning with salt, pepper and maybe a little more lemon juice if you have it. This can either be served at room temperature, or cold from the fridge.

Barley Salad with dill and lemon, plus asparagus and tofu