Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Barley Chronicles

I've never really thought much about barley before.  Have you?  Isn't barley just that stuff you get in beef soup?

Aaah, but it turns out that barley is so much more than that, Sensei*.  At NutritionScienceRx, we are currently researching foods that are healing for eczema.  We have a Chinese Traditional Medicine doctor working with us and she recommends pearl barley for eczema and other skin conditions.

I was thinking about barley the other day as I drove home from Sonoma County to Lake Tahoe.  As it happened, I stopped at a roadside ranch market where they stock Bob's Red Mill and...what  do you know, but there was a package of pearl barley, right there on the shelf in front of me.

When I got it home, I first prepared it simply.  I  brought 3 cups of organic chicken broth to a boil, added the peal barley, lowered the heat and cooked it for almost an hour.  When it was cooked, it was... surprisingly, absolutely, yummy!  One of my friends dropped by and we ate it warm in a bowl with melted grass fed butter oozing over the top.  We both decided it was the ultimate comfort food for autumn.  It's hearty and filling, warm and buttery and just delicious.

I put the rest of the cooked peal barley in a plastic container and put it in the fridge where I have been pulling it out for snacks, sides and salads.  It will last for a week like this.  

The next night I served it as a side dish with dinner, just as before, warm with melting butter.  My husband just raved about it.  Wow, who knew that pearl barley would taste so good.

I started to do a little online researching into cooking with barley.  One of the things I noticed when I searched for barley recipes was that most of the salads had relatively low rankings of 3 1/2 stars.  This is unusual for just about any food.  Almost every ingredient has at least a few recipes with 5 star rankings.  It was puzzling because these salads had great ingredients listed.  And as I've discovered, barley itself tastes so good to start out with.  I wondered what was going wrong.

In working with barley, I notice that it is like a sponge and soaks in ingredients.  I find that it takes some strong flavors to counter that tendency.  For this reason, I chose a very strong balsamic, Dijon and shallot vinaigrette for the first recipe.  The second recipe's vinaigrette has a higher ratio of acid to oil than usual and that is why I believe it is successful.   Anyway, enough of food chemistry.  On to the the actual food...

Smoked Salmon and Barley Salad

2 t Dijon mustard
3 T walnut oil
1 T Balsamic vinegar
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
1/2 t heaping Herbs de Provence
1 T finely chopped fresh shallot
1 1/4 cups barley that has been cooked in organic chicken broth
4 oz smoked wild salmon  (must be wild or it won't have the important omega-3s)
2 T capers
1 cup chopped celery

super green lettuce mix

Whisk together Dijon, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence and shallot to make a vinaigrette.  Stir in all other ingredients.  Serve on a bed of super greens.

Note:  Walnut oil and wild salmon are rich in omega-3s which are anti-inflammatory and therefore helpful in healing eczema.  Super greens, celery, shallots and capers are also all anti-inflammatory.  

If you prefer a more subtle pearl barley salad recipe, try this one which is adapted from the one on the Bob's Red Mill bag.  I've made a number of changes to it, one of which was adding tangerine peel which is another ingredient recommended for healing eczema in Chinese Traditional Medicine.

Adapted Bob's Red Mill Pearl Barley Salad (with Tangerine)

1 cup pearl barley
3 cups organic chicken stock
1 can garbanzo beans rinsed thoroughly
1 cup cashews
1 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
2 t dried mint
peel from 1 tangerine grated and chopped fine
2 T olive oil
1 T flax oil
2 T tangerine juice
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t sea salt
generous ground black pepper to taste

lettuce leaves
optional:  goat cheese

Heat the chicken stock to boil and add the cup of barley. Reduce heat and simmer about an hour or until tender. Cool.  Add barley, beans, cashews, carrot, parsley mint and tangerine rind to a bowl.  Mix the rest of the ingredients to make a vinaigrette.  Combine all ingredients and serve on lettuce leaves.  If you eat dairy, you might add a little goat cheese for extra pizzaz.

Note:  Just about every ingredient in this recipe is either anti-inflammatory (inflammation is a cause of eczema), high in omega-3s (also good for decreasing inflammation) or an ingredient that is specifically good for healing eczema.  Cow milk products are inflammatory, however, goat milk is significantly less inflammatory.

By the way, I've custom selected a group of delicious sounding barley recipes from around the internet.  Click to visit my Barley pin board.

*Actually Sensei is the Japanese word for master teacher.  In Chinese the word is similar, Xiansheng, and has the same meaning.

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