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Cooking with Barley


by Coleen and Bob Simmons

About Barley
Like wheat, barley consumption predates written history. Nomadic tribes began cultivating barley first as a cereal grain and soon after as a beer-brewing ingredient. Barley is full of vitamins and is a good source of fiber, complex carbohydrates and protein. Barley is low in fat and has no cholesterol.
     While barley has a more distinctive flavor than rice, it, like rice, is a delicious base for soups, stews, salads, curries, casseroles and desserts.
     Following are some common forms of barley available today:
Pearl barley is a whole-grain barley from which the outer hull has been removed. It is the most common form available. Pearl barley comes in both regular and quick-cooking forms.
Barley flakes make a delicious hot cereal. Cook them as you would oatmeal. Or, use barley flakes in baked goods.
Barley flour is a low-gluten flour. It can be used in baked items to add a distinctive flavor, but it should be combined with wheat flour to achieve the proper results. In general, you can replace up to 25% of the wheat flour with barley flout in yeast breads and up to 50% of the wheat flour with barley flour in cookies and quick breads.


Basic Cooked Pearl Barley
Makes 31/2 - 4 cups

     Pearl barley requires no soaking. Take a couple of minutes to sort through it and remove any stones or extraneous materials that may have slipped through the packaging process. Instant or quick-cooking barley usually cooks in 10 to 12 minutes. Follow package directions for specifics.

1 cup regular pearl barley
3 cups water or stock
1/2 tsp. salt, if using water

     Place barley, water and salt, if using, in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, until barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff grains with a fork. Cool before refrigerating.


Mushroom Barley Soup
Servings: 4 - 6

     Serve this soup, which freezes well, for a rainy-day meal with hot garlic bread or biscuits.

1 oz. dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms
6 cups hot water
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb. fresh cremini (brown) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup regular pearl barley
4 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
6 cups canned beef broth
3/4 tsp. salt
generous grinds black pepper

     Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl with 2 cups of the hot water; let stand for 20 minutes, until softened. Remove mushrooms from liquid and chop coarsely. Strain soaking liquid through a paper coffee filter or cheesecloth and reserve.
     In a medium stockpot, heat butter and olive oil over low heat. Add onions and carrots and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add fresh mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add barley and cook for 2 minutes. Add parsley, thyme, bay leaf, stock, mushroom liquid and remaining 4 cups hot water. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, until barley is soft. Adjust seasonings and serve.


Old-Fashioned Refrigerator Cookies
Makes 80

     With this dough on hand in the refrigerator, a panful of crisp warm cookies is only 15 minutes away. Substitute 3/4 cup barley or oat flour for part of the all-purpose flour, if desired. Line baking sheets with parchment for easy cleanup.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. slat
3 cups barley flakes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dates or raisins

     With a mixer, beat butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In a small bowl, mix flout with baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, mixing well. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well; dough will be sticky. Divide dough in half and place each half on a long sheet of waxed paper. Using waxed paper, shape dough into 2 long rolls, about 3 inches in diameter. Place rolls in the refrigerator until firm, for at least 4 hours.
     Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut cookie dough into 1/4-inch slices and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned and firm to the touch. Cool on a rack.

 From Cooking with Grains, by Coleen and Bob Simmons. Copyright © 1999 by Bristol Publishing Enterprises, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with by Bristol Publishing Enterprises, Inc. $8.95. Available in local bookstores or 800-346-4889 or click here.