There comes a time in most every home cook’s life when the thought of setting foot in the kitchen seems abominable. The feeling may strike at any time; it bears no correlation to the home cook’s love or loathing of assembling a meal. It can last a few hours, a few days or several weeks and will arrive suddenly, without warning, like a case of flu or your husband’s college roommate, looking for a place to crash for a few weeks. It can also come slowly, creeping up until even the most mundane tasks, like operating a can opener, seem daunting, dreary or both.
I have several solutions. One is to “hrrumph” loudly and curl up on the sofa with a bowl of cereal. Falling asleep works well, too, as does complaining until someone else orders a pizza. Or I can stock the cupboard with a few cans and jars of quick-fix meal ingredients. For example, marinara sauce, olives, roasted bell peppers, tapenade, salsa, and multiple varieties of beans.
I discovered quick-cooking barley after helping a friend pack up and clean out her kitchen before a big move. As we reached the end of our chore, we realized we were famished, too tired to drive to the store, and void of any imagination to create something from her meager but eclectic assortment of packaged foods. Then I remembered the quick barley we had packed. Pearled barley can take as much as 50 minutes to cook, but quick-cooking barley is akin to quick-cooking oats: it has been steamed and rolled slightly, hence the quick cook time.
We fished the barley from the packing box, boiled and drained it in 10 minutes, added a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkled it all with the grated vestiges of a nub of Parmesan cheese. It was scrumptious.
Since then, I have purposely stowed at least one box in my cupboard for cooking angst emergencies. I also keep canned baby beets on hand. Have you tried them? I love roasted beets, but I am talking about dinner options in a flash. The whole canned baby beets lull me into thinking someone else did the cooking for me.
I always have carrots in the crisper, so I peeled an cut them into chunks and cooked them along with the barley. Some feta, chopped parsley and an easy lemon dressing pulled it all together. The whole grain barley and veg are just what your body and brain need to re-energize (5 mile run anybody? NYT crossword puzzle? Heck yes! 🙂 Enjoy!
- 1–1/2 cups quick-cooking barley
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 15-oz can whole baby beets, drained and cut 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- zest and juice of 1 large lemon
- 1 cup (packed) Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Bring a medium size saucepan full of water to a boil; Add the barley and carrots. Cook, stirring once or twice, for 10 minutes until both are fork tender. Drain and rinse under cool water. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the beets, feta, oil, lemon juice and zest, and parsley. Toss to combine and season (generously) with salt adn pepper. Eat right away or refrigerate until ready to serve.