Thursday, January 29, 2009

Barley with Creamy Sundried Tomato Sauce

Since we visited the Iron Barley Restaurant in St. Louis on New Year's Eve, and Clint and I have been experimenting with barley in our cooking. It was served to us on that evening in so many different formats—smoked with tomatoes, in an orzo dish, as a salad—that our eyes were really opened to what a versatile whole grain it is.

I tried to replicate the sundried tomato barley that came with Clint's oak-roasted prime rib, at the restaurant. I didn't even come close, but what I did "invent" was delicious.

(I went the "low-fat" route on this recipe, and used fat-free Half & Half, and low-fat mozzarella.)

Barley with Creamy Sundried Tomato Sauce

*Cook barley separately, and set aside. (See Notes on Barley, at the end of this recipe.)

Onion, chopped
Garlic, chopped
1 portabello mushroom cap, cubed
sundried tomatoes (I used tomatoes packed in oil)
parsley (I used curley)
splash of red wine, if desired
1 c. Half & Half
1/4 c. mozzarella
Parmesan cheese

Saute onion, garlic and mushroom in a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes and parsley, and a splash of red wine, if desired. Cook down til wine reduces.

Stir in the cream and cheeses. Simmer and stir on low until cheeses melt, and sauce thickens .

At this point, I just stir in barley until I find a nice ratio of vegetables to grain. I prefer my dishes to be a little heavier on the veggies and sauce.

Not a gorgeous photo of the finished side dish above, I know, but it tasted mahhhvehlous, dahlink. Give it a try, adjust your veggies and sauces, and let me know how yours turns out!

A Few Notes on Barley

There are different levels of processed barley. I'll just give a quick rundown; if you want more info, click here.

Quick (Pearled) Barley cooks in 10 minutes. It's processed, has outer hulls stripped off, and cooks faster, but it's not as good for you as hulled barley. Think instant/white rice v. brown rice, or instant v. steel cut oats. The 10-minute stuff is fine, but I'm out for high-fiber and more nutrition, and prefer hulled.

I found two different types of Hulled Barley at Strawberry Fields. It is much cheaper than the boxed quick barley, at $1.59 lb. Read the bins! One type of barley takes 45 minutes to cook, while there's another that requires an overnight soaking. I plan most of my meals on the fly, and an overnight soaking doesn't work. I get the 45-minute stuff.