Such is the case with the mason jar full of "Purple Prairie Barley" that has been languishing in my cupboards for a year and a half. While I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this gift ... I don't love barley, (I typically find it too chewy for my tastes,) and rarely cook with it. I do enjoy using pearled barley in risotto-style meals from time to time, but as a rule, I don't keep barley on hand. I don't recall ever cooking hulled barley previously, so this extra-special barley was a bit of a stumper.
Googling "recipe purple barley" brought me up short, too -- most of the recipes were for salads, which I'm just not in the mood for right now, and besides, the veggies required for these summery meals are no longer in season. I also infrequently make "protein-veg-grain" meals, so I rarely am looking for a carb-heavy side dish.
Thinking a little more about barley, I remember that mushrooms are frequently paired with barley, and since I also had a packet of dried porcini mushrooms in my cupboard (which I believe were also a gift!) I decided the two were destined for pilaf territory.
But, what to pair with the rich, earthy, umami-rich pilaf I was dreaming up? I needed something lighter and brighter, something that would wake up my palate and bring some color and interest to the plate. Something that would provide contrast in both flavor and texture, without "fighting" the barley. Lemon-Thyme Roasted Tempeh and Vegetables to the rescue!
4 to 6 servings
1 cup hulled barley, soaked for at least 8 hours and drained
1/2 oz dried mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, or a mixture of whatever you like or have on hand)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tbsp butter (or olive oil)
1 cup finely-chopped onion or leek (white and light green parts)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt/to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the dried mushrooms, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and the broth is infused with mushroomy-goodness. Strain, reserving both the mushrooms and broth. Stem the mushrooms (if needed) and finely mince.
2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent.
3. Add the soaked/drained barley, vegetable broth, and minced rehydrated mushrooms, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. (I use a heat diffuser to prevent scorching the bottom layer when I cook most grains, but this is entirely optional, especially if you trust in your stove.) Check the barley at this point -- if there is excess liquid, remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has cooked off.
4. Enjoy! Leftovers freeze well, if you are so inclined.
Lemon-Thyme Roasted Tempeh and Veggies
zest and juice of one lemon
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz tempeh
seasonal vegetables, cubed (I used eggplant, butternut squash, broccoli, and red bell pepper)
1. Make the marinade: combine the zest, juice, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil in a small food processor or blender (or in a mason jar, if you plan on using a stick blender.) Puree until smooth and emulsified.
2. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the tempeh, cover, lower the heat, and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the tempeh and cool slightly. Cut the tempeh into cubes, and gently toss with 2 tbsp of the marinade.
3. Toss the prepared vegetables with the remaining marinade. (You can add the tempeh to the bowl, too, but it can be delicate and crumbly at this stage, so your choice.) Allow the veggies and tempeh to marinade for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Farenheight. Dump out the veggies and tempeh onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Remove any delicate veggies (broccoli, asparagus, green onions, etc.) and set aside. Roast the tempeh and sturdier veggies for 20 minutes. Stir/flip the tempeh and veggies, add the delicate veggies, and return everything to the oven for 20 more minutes.
I was pleased with how both of these recipes turned out, although I was definitely more pleased with the tempeh and veggies. Blame the barley. I just don't LOVE it. Do you love barley? I do have a couple cups of Purple Prairie Barley left ... what to do? Any fabulous recipes to share?