Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nothing Says Spring Like Barley

I remember my mother's reluctance to turn on our oven when the weather got warm. I remember wondering what we were going to eat for dinner during those summer months and how we were going to cook. The challenge is here again: how to feed yourself and others while avoiding the large appliance that takes up too much space in your kitchen.

Can one eat mangos for breakfast, lunch and dinner and survive? Will avacado smeared toast give your body all it needs?

I've been flipping through my cookbooks, wishing I had remembered to pick up a fennel bulb at the market or another cucumber and some feta cheese to make a nice gazpacho or a greek salad, or this chilled cucumber soup I've been wanting to try. But none of those can help with tonight.

I settled on this "Creamy Barley Salad with Apples" from Real Simple. I have barley on hand from all those wintery soups. I have apples aplenty which is good, but it also means that we have already had apples for lunch and this dish might border on overload. Maybe I will omit the apples. But what I'm really excited about is the Baked Strawberry Custard that is just out of the oven. Yes, I used the oven, but it is turned off now and won't be turned back on for the rest of the day. Maybe the challenge above can be changed to a guideline with a "just do your best, that is all anybody can ask" subtitle.

I'll let you know how the salad goes. The Custard is from Everyday Food, April edition, p. 106.

The salad was great, as it turned out. Perfect for an unseasonably warm spring evening. Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 hefty teaspoon dijon mustard
2 stalks celery sliced (I substituted snow peas)
1 apple, thinly sliced (I used golden delicious)
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 bunches arugula (I used red leaf lettuce)

In a medium saucepan, combine the barley, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1/2 tsp. salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until barley is tender and water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, lemon juice, mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add celery, apple, mint, and mix.

Break up the barley, add to above mixture, and toss to combine.

Serve over lettuce.

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