Monday, March 2, 2009
Beards & Barley
First, a little salute to the food community. We all know Brooklyn is cool - infinitely cooler than Boston. Newbury Comics is great and all, but then there's Sound Fix in Williamsburg. Henrietta's Table in Cambridge runs an outstanding farm-to-table outfit, but Franny's in Park Slope just makes the whole endeavor homey and sexy. And, as it appears in last Wednesday's Dining section of the Times, their men tote way radder beards than their New England brethren (with apologies to all the bearded boys in Boston I know). Ok, so the article has nothing to do with Boston, and really little to do with facial hair. But if you haven't read it, stop reading this nonsense now and follow that link up there. It's that important. I was genuinely inspired by this profile on all the hard-earned and heart-felt food crafting that's happening in the borough, and would love to see more of it here. It's happening to a certain extent; I think there's a whole enclave of us here in which "'every person you pass has read Michael Pollan.'" If you or a friend or coworker that person in our bed Saturday morning is doing out-of-the-ordinary food crafting, I want to hear about it. Patissiers, chocolatiers, underground restauranteurs, home-brewers unite!
Mmm, speaking of home-brew, that leads me to barley. The star of the recipe in this post. It's chewy, it's poppy, it's subtle but hearty. It's hard to go wrong here. Barley is a whole grain (well, see below), which we know means it's healthful, but I won't get into that here. I'm a BA, not an MD. What I am is broke, son, and whole grains in bulk are cheap cheap cheap. After I did my taxes and found out that I owe more than I spend I groceries in six months, I 1) dragged myself out of the fetal position from under the kitchen table, and 2) hit the pantry to make some serious comfort food. I'm still working on those winter reserves, and fortunately, I have a good stock to work with. Wild rice, black rice, oats, lentils...ooo, barley!
When buying barley, try and stay clear of the pearled stuff. Pearled = processed, a removal of the outer hull that contains the bulk of the fiber, vitamins and flavor. Look for whole hulled barley. Ugh, here comes that nutritionism argument again. I diminished my veggie rations for this, but it's a great way to use up what's dwindling in your fridge. Roasting then pureeing veggies creates a soup that's outrageously rich in flavor without the fuss of seasonings. In fact, all I added was salt and pepper, letting the roots sing their flawless five-part harmony. You can use any combination of roastable veggies here, though I especially like the zingy pizazz of the celery root in this melange.Roasted Vegetable and Barley Stew
1 cup whole barley
2 1/4 cup water
2 parsnips, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
1 celeriac, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 white onion, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6-8 cups veggie stock, water or a combination
Bring the 2 1/4 cups water to a boil. Add the barley, return to a boil, cover, and simmer for 50-55 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Add all the veggies except the potatoes to a large roasting pan. Toss with the olive oil, maybe toss in a bit of salt for good measure. Roast 30-40 minutes until the veggies are browned and pierced easily with a fork, stirring a couple times throughout to avoid burning.
Add the roasted veggies to a large stockpot. Add the potatoes and veggie stock/water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Puree with a blender, immersion blender or food processor for about five minutes, or until smooth. Add the barley and there ya go. Serves 8.