My husband asked me to make him a warm spinach salad and the other week we had a dish with barley. The chew of the barley gave me the idea to make it into bacon - as long as I could achieve a crunch on them.
I loved how these turned out! They were smoky, salty and just crunchy enough to make passing by the bowl without snagging a few a near impossibility.
A pressure cooker is really the best appliance to cook barley and barley that is whole grain is the best grain for this. Pearled barley cooks faster but isn't a whole grain and might not give that distinctive texture.
The black cardamom is the smoke (but you can use liquid smoke) and the sun-dried tomatoes offer a complexity. Once they are done cooking in the pot, it's time to cook them in a pan. I add porcini mushrooms to the pan, which brings its own set of texture and flavors. Working together, these ingredients are perfect to offer that bacon-y experience.
Of course, I had to add some other veggies to the mix! I sauteed leeks and zucchini, but cauliflower or kale would be equally delicious.
To clean your leeks, cut them in half lengthwise and slice them into 1/2-inch pieces. Fill a large bowl with water and add the leeks. Swoosh them around, breaking up the clumps, and set them aside for a few minutes. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl and you can scoop out the leeks with your fingers. Water your plants with the water.
Keep the vegetables warm while you heat up your dressing and toss all the hot ingredients with the spinach.
Serve immediately with the barley and pepitas. Pepitas are extremely high in protein, are delicious and offer another satisfying crunch.
Warm Spinach Salad with Barley Bacon
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup hull-less barley, rinsed
2 small black cardamom or 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 sun-dried tomato halves
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, white part, sliced in half and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Sea salt and black pepper
2 bunches (about 8 cups) fresh spinach
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
1. Combine the barley, cardamom, tomato, bay leaf, water and tamari in a pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. Remove and discard the cardamom and bay. Drain the barley, reserving the tomato and the broth. Set aside.
2. Combine the mushrooms and the reserved broth from the barley in a small saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Set aside to rehydrate, about 10 more minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the broth, and rinse the mushrooms lightly. Strain the mushroom/barley broth through a coffee filter or reusable tea bag. You should have about 1/4 cup. Rinse the pot and add the broth. Bring to boil and reduce by half. Add the vinegar, sugar and plenty of black pepper.
3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the barley. Chop the porcini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and add to the barley. Cook until the barley is slightly crunchy, but don’t over cook. Remove, leaving as much oil as possible in the skillet, and set aside.
4. Add the leeks and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until golden, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
5. Warm the dressing if it has cooled. Add the spinach to an extra large bowl and top with the vegetables and dressing. Toss well. If it isn’t wilting, warm the bowl slightly (stainless steel only!) on the stove while tossing the spinach. When lightly wilted, divide among 4 bowls and top equally with the barley and pepitas. Serve.
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