Barley Couscous with Spring Vegetables

Barley is often overlooked as a whole grain, which is a shame because it has such a pleasing mild flavor and phenomenal chewy texture, a tip-off to its high fiber content. I like to pair it with a little fresh corn and a colorful assortment of vegetables.  This makes an admirable vegetarian main dish, but you can throw in some leftover roast (rotisserie) chicken at the end, if you like.   4 servings

  •  1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup pearled barley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups fat-free chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small (6-ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels, preferably cut fresh from 1 ear
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 to 4 baby broccoli spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 to 5 asparagus spears, tough ends removed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a large skillet or stovetop casserole, cook the onion in the olive oil over moderate heat until it is soft and golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the barley, coriander, cinnamon, Aleppo pepper, saffron and salt. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes to toast. Pour in 2 cups water, cover, and cook until the barley is partially tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth, currants, carrots, and sweet potato. Cook, partially covered, until the barley and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes longer.
  3. Add the corn, zucchini and asparagus and cook until the green vegetables are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Season with additional salt to taste and a generous grinding of black pepper.
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