A glass of beer, a loaf of bread, a bowl of cereal, a standard of measurement, a form of currency, a medication – they all began with Barley – an ancient grain, possibly even older than rice. Barley’s once exalted status has been redefined. No longer does it serve as a unit of monetary exchange or a unit of measurement. No physician thinks of prescribing it for an ailing patient. Now, barley is largely relegated to being a food or a key ingredient in the making of beer.
We owe much to the desert nomads and the camel caravans who endured sand storms and unrelenting heat to trade their sacks of barley with distant neighbors, who then traded with other distant neighbors. Our steaming bowl of bean and barley or mushroom barley soup is a hand-me-down recipe with roots that take us back to prehistoric man. In 2005 barley ranked fourth for cereal production. There are many types of barley, many different uses for it and a long history of its importance to mankind.
Cultivated barley is descended from wild barley, which still grows wild in the Middle East. Cultivated barley is an annual plant, but there are also many other perennial species. The exact origin of barley is debatable, possibly originating in Egypt, or Ethiopia, or the Near East or Tibet. However, we are fairly certain that barley was among the earliest cultivated grains, around the same time as the domestication of wheat. Barley was grown in the Middle East prior to 10,000 BC, but barley’s cultivation in China and India probably occurred later. Barley was grown on the Korean Peninsula by 1500-850 BC along with millet, wheat and legumes. In ancient Egypt (3200 BC to 30 BC) barley bread and beer (made from barley) was a major part of the diet.
As one of the first cereals cultivated in the Middle East, barley was used by ancient civilizations as food for humans and animals, as well as to make alcohol. Actually, the first known recipe for barley wine dates back to 2800 B.C.E. in Babylonia. Barley water has also been used for various medicinal purposes since ancient times. The ancient Greeks relied on barley to make bread and athletes attributed much of their strength and physical growth to their barley-containing diets. Roman athletes also honored barley for the strength it gave them. The gladiators were known as hordearii, meaning “eaters of barley”. Since the heads of barley are heavy and contain numerous seeds, barley was also honored in ancient China as a symbol of male virility.
Given the relatively high cost of wheat in the Middle Ages, many Europeans at that time made bread from a combination of barley and rye. In the 1500’s, the Spanish introduced barley to South America. The English and Dutch settlers of the 1600’s brought barley to the United States. Today, the largest commercial producers of barley are Canada, the United States, Russia, Germany, France and Spain.
Types of Barley
Barley has many different varieties and there are many ways to classify barley.
One classification identifies barley by whether there are two, four or six rows of grains on the head. Six row barley can produce 25-60 grains, while two-row barley produces 25-30 grains.Wild barley is two-row and most cultivated barley is of the six-row type.
Another way to classify barley is to describe the beards (awns) covering the kernels – as long or short.
Barley can also be described as hulled or hulless (naked), malt type, height or seed color (colorless, white, yellow, blue).
Still others classify barley into 4 types based on geography: Manchurian types, Coast types, Hannchen types or Compana-Smyrna types
Barley is grown for many purposes, but the majority of all barley is used for food or malting. High protein barleys are generally valued for food and starchy barley for malting. Most barley used for food is either pearled barley or barley flour. Prior to the 1500’s barley flour was the main ingredient for breads. The second most important use of barley is for malt and, in the US, there are price premiums for malting barley. Malt is used to produce beer, distilled alcohol, malt syrup, malted milk, malt flavoring and breakfast foods.
Hulled Barley is the most nutritious form of barley with only the outermost hull removed. With its bran still intact, it is nutrient dense and high in fiber. It’s full of important trace minerals, like iron and contains a range of B vitamins. Although the cooking time is longer than for other types of barley, the nutritional benefits are worth the effort. The added bonus is its distinct nutty flavor and brownish color. While it’s generally unavailable in most supermarkets, you’ll likely find it in health food stores.
Pearl Barley or Pearled Barley is the most common form of barley available and is sold in most supermarkets. Because the outer hulls including the bran have been removed, the grains have a pearly white color. The polishing process involves scouring the barley six times during milling to completely remove the outer hull and the bran layer. Though pearled barley cooks in less time than the whole grain hulled form, many of its nutrients are scoured away along with the bran. Still, pearl barley is rich in protein and high in fiber.
Quick Barley, or instant barley, is pearl barley that is pre-steamed then dried, shortening the cooking time considerably, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Scotch Barley, also called Pot Barley, is slightly less refined than the pearl barley and is scoured only three times, leaving part of the hull remaining. Health food markets may be the only place to find this uncommon variety.
Barley Grits are processed similar to bulghur wheat. The grain is cracked, toasted or parboiled, then dried, making it a quick-cooking product. The health food store is your best bet for locating this form of barley.
Barley Flakes, Pressed Barley or Rolled Barley have the appearance of rolled oats and are often included in muesli-type cereals. Since barley flakes are a favorite grain of the Japanese and Koreans, they can often be found at Asian markets, as well as health food markets.
Barley Flour is hulled barley that is finely ground and has a lightness and delicate sweetness. Since barley has such a low-gluten content, it is frequently blended with other flours in baking. Health food markets are likely to stock barley flour.
It’s always best to store grains in airtight containers. Unrefrigerated, barley will keep for six to nine months. If the grains are stored in the refrigerator, they will keep several months longer.
Barley can be used in place of rice in almost any dish. For convenience you may want to cook a large quantity to have on hand for different recipes. Reheating takes only a few minutes.
The cooking method for all forms of barley is the same–only the cooking times vary. Combine barley, water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat to low and simmer until grains are soft and all liquid is absorbed.
To shorten the cooking times, soak the barley overnight for cooking in the morning, or soak all day for cooking the barley at dinnertime.
Whole-grain hulled barley is ideal for soups that often simmer on the stovetop for a couple of hours. Add some beans, vegetables and seasonings for a hearty meal. Pearl barley will work equally as well and requires a shorter cooking time.
Barley combined with vegetables, potatoes, dill and a variety of dried mushrooms, blend together to create a richly flavored Mushroom Barley Soup. Top off this soup with a dollop of sour cream.
Barley grits make a quick breakfast that delivers a wholesome dish in practically no time. Follow the directions on the package for the barley grits, then add a topping of chopped fresh fruits, a sprinkle of cinnamon, some chopped nuts, a little milk and a sweetener, if desired.
This breakfast cereal comes together even more quickly with leftover cooked barley. Simply reheat the barley by adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to the pot, cover, and warm over medium heat for about 4 to 6 minutes. Then create your own toppings with a dash of cinnamon, raisins, nuts and seeds, a little maple syrup and your favorite milk.
Leftover cooked barley, either hulled, pearl or barley flakes make the perfect base to build a salad. Add some chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet onions, trimmed snap peas, sweet corn, minced garlic and chopped basil leaves. Dress it with some extra virgin olive oil, lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Other combinations work equally as well. Choose your favorite crunchy veggies or even leftover steamed or roasted vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers, zucchini or carrots.
While the barley is simmering, saute some chopped onions and minced garlic. Simply add these along with herbs to your cooked barley and season according to taste.
Barley Primavera: Create your own original Barley Primavera just as you would with pasta. While the barley is cooking, saute chopped vegetables, add seasonings to taste and prepare your favorite sauce. For each serving, mound the barley on the center of the plate, top with some sautéed vegetables and finish with the sauce. The sauce could be a marinara, oil and garlic or a creamy white sauce. A light sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds adds an appealing touch.
Stuffed Vegetables: Barley is an ideal grain for stuffing vegetables. Try stuffing cabbage, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, acorn squash or even Japanese pumpkin (kabocha squash). To the barley, add sauteed chopped vegetables, nuts or chopped, browned sausage and dried herbs. Season to taste and bake about 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Barley Risotto: Pearl barley makes an excellent creamy risotto. The timing will vary with barley. For risotto, use only the pearl barley. The hulled barley will not break down into a creamy state like pearl barley.
Barley Pudding: Make a barley pudding, much like you would make a rice pudding. Add sweetening, spices and dried fruits. Prepare a fruit sauce by pureeing your favorite fruits in the processor with a touch of sweetening and a squeeze of lemon and use that as a topping.
Some Springtime Barley Recipes
For the barley:
- 12 ounces pearl barley
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 Spanish onion, cut in half
- 2 garlic cloves, whole
- 2 celery sticks
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cups (32 ounces) water
For the salad:
- 1 medium carrot, thinly julienned
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 10 baby tomatoes, cut in half
- 4 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
- Red and green leaf lettuce
For the dressing:
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 red onion, small dice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
For the barley:
Rinse barley. In a large pot, combine barley and 32 ounces fresh water. Add carrot, onion, garlic, celery, and salt. Simmer covered at medium-high heat for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Discard the vegetables and drain the barley. Let the barley cool and place in a glass bowl.
For the salad:
In a glass bowl, mix together the barley, julienned carrots, scallions, tomatoes and parsley.
For the dressing:
In a smaller glass bowl, add all ingredients for the vinaigrette, except for the oil, and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil as you whisk. Dress the salad. This salad tastes even better if you let it rest for 1-2 hours.
Serve over red and green leaf lettuces.
Springtime Vegetable Barley
This dish makes an excellent side for grilled meats or fish. It can also be served as a vegetarian main meal.
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup quick-cooking barley
- 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet, saute onion and carrot in butter until crisp-tender. Stir in the barley; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir n 1 cup broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover, cook and stir until liquid is absorbed.
Add asparagus. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add more broth as needed. Stir in marjoram and pepper; sprinkle with cheese.
Barley Sausage Stuffed Peppers
- 4 large green peppers
- 1/2 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
- 3 cups cooked barley
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cut tops off peppers; remove seeds. In a large kettle, blanch peppers in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.
In a skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, onion and garlic until onion is tender and sausage is no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomato sauce, barley, thyme, salt and pepper; heat through.
Spoon into peppers; place in an ungreased 8-in. square baking dish. Cover and bake at 350°F. for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender and filling is hot.
Barley Risotto with Eggplant and Tomatoes
4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups risotto
- 6 cups diced (1/2-inch) eggplant
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 5 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta or cubed mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine eggplant, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; toss to coat. Arrange mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until tomatoes begin to collapse and eggplant is tender.
Combine broth and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until onion begins to brown. Stir in pearl barley and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly.
Add 1 cup broth mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 40 minutes total).
Gently stir in eggplant mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt. Top with cheese, basil and nuts.
- 6 large tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- 3/4 cups pearl barley
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
- Additional pecan halves, for garnish
Cut tops from tomatoes. Scoop out pulp and reserve to use in soups or sauces. Sprinkle centers of tomatoes with salt and pepper. Invert tomatoes on paper towels to drain.
In a medium saucepan with lid, bring water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon butter to boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed.
In a small skillet, sauté chopped pecans in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add pecans to cooked barley along with chopped bell pepper and green onion. Fill tomatoes with barley mixture.
Place filled tomatoes close together in baking pan. Add 1/4 cup water to pan. Cover with foil and bake at 375° F for 20 minutes. Garnish each tomato with a pecan half, if desired, and serve.
Barley Flour Drop Biscuits
Makes 10-12 biscuits depending on how large you form them.
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- ¼ cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 ¼ cups barley flour
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 beaten egg
Soften dry yeast in lukewarm water, add honey and allow mixture to set for approximately 15 minutes, or until frothy.
Combine barley flour and salt and, with two knives or pastry blender, cut butter into the dry ingredients.
Combine buttermilk and egg and beat slightly, then stir into the flour mixture.
Add yeast mixture, mix thoroughly and let the whole mixture stand for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Drop dough by tablespoon onto a greased baking sheet.
Pat into 2-inch rounds and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until nicely browned.
- Barley breakthrough allows long-life beer (abc.net.au)
- Pearl barley hot/cold salad (soulinspires.com)
- Barley and boiled egg soup (feedthepiglet.wordpress.com)
Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and nutrients of the entire seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.
LIST OF WHOLE GRAINS
The following are examples of generally accepted whole grain foods and flours.
- Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn
- Oats, including oatmeal
- Rice, both brown rice and colored rice
- Sorghum (also called milo)
- Wheat, including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut®, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheat berries
- Wild rice
WHOLE WHEAT VS. WHOLE GRAIN
A question that gets asked regularly is, “What is the difference between whole wheat and whole grain?” The answer is in another question: “What is the difference between a carrot and a vegetable?”
We all know that carrots are vegetables but not all vegetables are carrots. It’s similar with whole wheat and whole grain: Whole wheat is one kind of whole grain, so all whole wheat is whole grain, but not all whole grain is whole wheat.
If you’re reading this in Canada, be aware that Canada has a different regulation for whole wheat flour. Canada allows wheat flour to be called “whole wheat” even when up to 5% of the original kernel is missing. So in Canada you’ll hear two terms used:
- Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains at least 95% of the original kernel
- Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour in Canada — contains 100% of the original kernel
“Whole grain whole wheat flour” would be redundant in the U.S.A. — whole wheat flour is always whole grain in the United States.
Source of Essential Nutrients
The charts below list some of the nutrients that whole grains contribute to a healthy diet, and the proportion of the Daily Value for each.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a food to be a “good source” of a nutrient if a standard-size serving provides 10% of the recommended daily value; an “excellent source” provides 20% or more than the recommended daily value. We’ve noted when some nutrients in whole grains go even farther above these levels. Note that a blank, white block does not mean that a particular grain contains none of that nutrient. Very often levels fall just short of reaching the “good source” level – but these foods can still make important contributions to your nutrient needs, in combination with other healthy foods. Whole Grains Council May 2004
A SERVING OF 100% WHOLE GRAIN FOODS
If you enjoy foods made entirely with whole grain, you can follow the suggestions in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, where a serving of whole grain is defined as any of the following:
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
- 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-wheat pasta
- 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
- 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
- 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
- 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
- 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal
The Whole Grains Council has created an official packaging symbol called the Whole Grain Stamp that helps consumers find real whole grain products. The Stamp started to appear on store shelves in mid-2005 and is becoming more widespread every day.The 100% Stamp assures you that a food contains a full serving or more of whole grain in each labeled serving and that ALL the grain is whole grain.
You can easily add whole grains to your meals, often using favorite recipes you’ve always enjoyed. Try some of the following:
MAKE EASY SUBSTITUTIONS
- Substitute half the white flour with whole wheat flour in your regular recipes for cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes. Or be bold and add up to 20% of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.
- Replace one third of the flour in a recipe with quick oats or old-fashioned oats.
- Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice, or barley to bread stuffing.
- Add half a cup of cooked wheat or rye berries, wild rice, brown rice, sorghum or barley to your favorite canned or homemade soup.
- Use whole corn meal for corn cakes, corn breads and corn muffins.
- Add three-quarters of a cup of uncooked oats for each pound of ground beef or turkey when you make meatballs, burgers or meatloaf.
- Stir a handful of rolled oats in your yogurt, for quick crunch with no cooking necessary.
TRY NEW FOODS
- Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa or farro.
- Enjoy whole grain salads like tabbouleh.
- Buy whole grain pasta, or one of the blends that’s part whole-grain, part white.
- Try whole grain breads. Kids especially like whole grain pita bread.
- Look for cereals made with grains like kamut, kasha (buckwheat) or spelt.
Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Peppers, Turkey Sausage, and Cheese
Makes: 4 servings
12 ounces whole wheat or dark spelt* spaghetti (available at some supermarkets and natural food stores)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet Italian turkey sausage link, (about 4 to 5 oz.) casing removed
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 bell peppers (one each red, green, orange, and yellow), cored and sliced
1/2 crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook per package instructions until al dente, then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and saute, crumbling it with a spatula, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
3. Pour off any fat, then heat the remaining olive oil in the pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the bell peppers and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft and beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
4. Add the drained pasta and reserved cooking water to the pan and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and toss the pasta with the cheese. Season with black pepper and serve.
Notes * Spelt is related to wheat, but it’s higher in protein and vitamins. Its deep, nutty flavor gives pasta and breads a rich taste.
3-Grain Salad with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Parmesan
Makes: 4 servings
1/2 cup hulled barley*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup farro**
1/4 cup bulgur
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 cup drained, rinsed cannellini beans
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the barley and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; boil for 30 minutes. Add the farro; boil for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until both grains are tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, bring 6 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small saucepan; add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes, until the water is absorbed.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the vinegar, onion, garlic, and remaining salt.
4. Add the grains to the vinegar mixture while still warm; toss well. Remove the garlic and stir in the beans, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil; season with black pepper to taste. Fold in the Parmesan and serve.
Notes:* With its chewy, pasta-like texture, barley is a great addition to soups and stews. It’s loaded with satisfying protein and fiber.
** A hearty grain with plenty of protein, farro is used in soups and salads. It has a distinct nutty taste.
Spicy Salmon with Olives and Lemon Quinoa
Makes: 4 servings
1/2 cup chopped scallions
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
1 pound skin-on salmon fillet
1 cup quinoa*, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons pitted, chopped black olives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the scallions and red pepper with the salt and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Spray a small roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray and lay the salmon in it skin side down. Cover the fish with the scallion and red pepper mixture. Roast the salmon in the top third of the oven until it is opaque at the center of the thickest part, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa; cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining olive oil and the pine nuts, olives, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Serve the salmon over the quinoa.
Notes * Technically a seed, quinoa is packed with protein and magnesium, a nutrient that lowers blood pressure. Light and fluffy, quinoa is perfect for salads and side dishes.
Tabbouleh with Feta and Shrimp
Makes: 4 servings
1 cup bulgur*
1 packed cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
8 ounces medium cleaned, shelled, tail-on shrimp, thawed if frozen
1 large pickling cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and add the bulgur. Bring the liquid back to a boil and then cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let sit for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon of the parsley with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, oregano, and mint.
3. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and simmer for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then rinse under cool water.
4. Place the bulgur in a serving bowl and toss with the shrimp, cucumber, tomato, scallion, feta, the remaining parsley, and the dressing. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Note:* Bulgur cooks quickly and has a subtle, nutty flavor. Try it in soups, salads, and stuffings or as a substitute for rice.
Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup
Cannellini beans, fresh herbs, and amaranth, a wonderful whole grain thickener, makes this hearty soup filling enough to be a main dish. For a thick and creamy soup, puree all of the soup rather than leaving half of the beans whole.
2 tablespoons. extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, white parts only, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup amaranth
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup tomato paste
2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, then add the amaranth grains, stock, bay leaf, and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the bay leaf from the amaranth mixture, add 1 cup of the beans, and use a handheld immersion blender to puree in the pot until smooth. (Alternatively, puree the beans in a food processor, add the amaranth mixture – working in batches if necessary – and puree again until smooth, then return to the pot.)
4. Stir in the remaining beans, the herbs, and the salt. Warm gently just to heat through. If desired, thin the soup with additional stock. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Nutrition Reminder: Whole Grains Aren’t Always What They Seem (blisstree.com)
- Whole Grains Demystified [Bread miniseries part 2/4] (fooducate.com)
- how to make a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (glutenfreegirl.com)
- Food Fraud: Multigrain (donteatdirt.com)
- 7 Negative Effects of Refined Flour (refreshingnews99.blogspot.com)
- Canadian scientists developing colourful purple wheat to boost health, economy (vancouversun.com)
- Bulgur, quinoa star in summer salads (dailyherald.com)
The modern slow cooker was developed by Rival Industries with the trademarked name Crock Pot. This name is sometimes used informally to refer to any slow cooker. Rival purchased and refined the design of a bean-pot called the Beanery from Naxon Co. of Chicago.
In the early ’70s, the Rival Company, known for its “Juice-O-Mat,” “Ice-O-Mat,” and “Can-O-Mat” convenience appliances, resurrected the idea of slow cooking. The company acquired the rights to the “Beanery,” a primitive slow cooker, and gave the appliance a much-needed makeover. The Crock-Pot slow cooker was born.
The timing couldn’t have been better. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, Americans were encouraged to conserve electricity, and Crock-Pots operated at a very low wattage. In addition, many women were abandoning their traditional roles as homemakers and the Crock-Pot and its motto—”Cooks all day while the cook’s away”—fit their new lifestyle.
The slow cooker is a versatile appliance that’s just as suited to vegetarian foods as it is meat and poultry, everyday meals, and entertaining occasions. You can make hearty, healthy dishes for the whole family. Simply add ingredients to the slow cooker, get on with your day, and come home to a kitchen filled with tempting aromas.
The slow cooker, which is essentially an electric pot with a stoneware insert, can do what no oven or stovetop burner can: cook food at consistently low and even temperatures for what might be as long as 10 or 12 hours. Dinner cooks while you’re out.
Flavor is one of the big advantages to meals you cook in the pot. You can get a deeply flavored meal at the end of an 8- or 10-hour slow simmer. Time-saving is another reason for the slow cooker’s popularity. Plus, they’re practical, since a slow cooker holds up to five quarts, you can definitely plan to have leftovers.
There is planning involved, however. The pot is perfect for cheaper cuts of meat that need long, gentle cooking to become tender: beef short ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and lamb shanks. Fish and dairy products, however, don’t fare as well; both will break down during the cooking. Chicken can get mushy, so pay strict attention to cook times for chicken recipes.
Always put vegetables in first. Vegetables take longer to cook than meat does, so for layering purposes, start with vegetables, then meat, and finally seasonings and small amounts of liquid. To prevent overcooking, fresh dairy products, pasta, or instant rice should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, or as your recipe directs.
Judith Finlayson, author of Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes and The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes, answers some slow-cooker questions.
How do I prevent meat from drying out?
To prevent poultry from drying out, use chicken thighs—they have more fat and won’t dry out as quickly, says Finlayson. Cook thighs for about six hours and breasts for a maximum of five hours on low heat. Beef, depending on the cut, is much more forgiving, she says. For better results, use stewing beef, short ribs, or brisket as opposed to a rib steak or a sirloin.
How can I prevent flavors from becoming muddy?
“Start with a good recipe and quality ingredients and you will be a long way from having muddy flavors,” says Finlayson. For fresher flavors, add chopped herbs and vegetables with shorter cooking times about 10 minutes before the meal is ready.
How can I clean my slow cooker without lots of soaking and scrubbing?
Though the slow cooker’s insert can be heavy, cleaning shouldn’t be a problem. Slow cookers retain moisture which should prevent scorching on the bottom, says Finlayson. Difficulty cleaning may indicate a technical issue such as the heat being on too high for too long.
Can I cook frozen meats in my slow cooker?
Cooking frozen meats in the slow cooker is an absolute no, says Finlayson. Harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, flourish in moist environments at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Using frozen meat may cause food to remain at an unsafe temperature for too long.
Is it safe to leave the slow cooker on when I’m not home?
Leaving the slow cooker on is perfectly safe. In fact, it’s comparable to leaving a light bulb on while you’re out, says Finlayson.
Why does my food get overcooked, even on the low setting?
Slow cookers are all manufactured differently and they don’t all cook at the same pace, says Finlayson: “Know your slow cooker. Use quality recipes, and if you are consistently cooking faster or slower, adjust your time accordingly.” Keep in mind: There are no precise guidelines, and it may take a bit of trial and error to fix the issue.
Can I cut a slow cooker recipe in half?
If cutting a recipe in half, you should also reduce the size of your slow cooker so that the heat distributes evenly, says Finlayson. If you only own one slow cooker, make the whole recipe and freeze the leftovers or stick to soups and stews, since the size of the slow cooker isn’t as important as it is when cooking grains.
Makes: 6 servings
Cook: 6 hrs to 7 hrs (low) or 3 to 3 1/2 hours (high)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 to4 pounds of meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks), skinned
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced fresh cremini and/or button mushrooms
- 1- 14 1/2 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper (1 large)
- 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
- 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Pasta, cooked, optional
Place flour in a plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, a few at a time, shaking to coat. In an extra-large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, half at a time if necessary, in hot oil about 12 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Transfer chicken to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
Add mushrooms to skillet; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to cooker. Add drained tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, carrots, wine, salt and pepper to mixture in cooker.
Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Before serving, stir in basil, parsley and thyme.
Serve over pasta with salad on the side or skip the pasta and serve with Italian bread.
Slow-Cooker Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna With Romaine Salad
Total Time: 4hr 15m
- 2-10-ounce packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess moisture
- 1 cup ricotta
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan (3 ounces)
- 3 cups marinara sauce, see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
- 6 regular lasagna noodles (not no-boil)
- 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (6 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 small head romaine lettuce, cut into strips (about 8 cups)
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
In a bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, and ½ cup of the Parmesan. In a second bowl, mix together the marinara sauce and 1/2 cup water.
Spread 3/4 cup of the marinara mixture in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.
Top with 2 noodles (breaking to fit), 3/4 cup of the remaining marinara mixture, half the spinach mixture, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella; repeat.
Top with the remaining noodles, marinara mixture, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
Cover and cook on low until the noodles are tender, 3 ½ to 4 hours.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the lettuce, cucumber, and onion. Toss to combine and serve with the lasagna.
Tip: If your slow-cooker insert is broiler-safe, broil the cooked lasagna until the cheese is golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
Italian Meatball Stew
Total Time: 5 hrs 10 mins
- 1 1/2 lbs extra lean ground beef or turkey
- 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon dry basil, crushed
- 1 (16 ounce) package frozen Italian style vegetables, defrosted
In a large bowl combine beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic. Form into 2 inch balls. Place meatballs in bottom of crock pot.
Combine tomato paste, broth, seasoned salt, oregano and basil. Pour mixture over meat. Cover.
Cook on low 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Stir in vegetables. Cover and cook on high 10-15 mins until mixture is hot.
Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup
- 1 cup dried Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
- 6 cups water
- 1 (14-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, optional
- 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Extra virgin olive oil
Put beans, water, tomatoes and their juices, garlic, celery, carrots, onion, barley, bay leaf, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, herb blend, pepper, and Porcini mushrooms (if using) in a slow cooker; cover and cook on LOW until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.
Stir in the spinach, cheese, and vinegar, cover, and let the soup cook until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with olive oil.
Italian Smothered Steak
Makes 6 servings
- 2 lb. boneless beef round steak
- 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 jar (26 oz) tomato pasta sauce or homemade marinara sauce, see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
- 1 package (9 oz) refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
- 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into slices (about 1 cup)
Cut beef into 6 serving-size pieces; sprinkle with salt and pepper. In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, layer beef and onion. Pour pasta sauce over top.
Cover and cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving, stir in tortellini and zucchini. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tortellini are tender.
- Crock-Full of Goodness (massageenvy.com)
- Slow-Cooker Recipes: Healthy Eating Made Easy (everydayhealth.com)
- 15 Splendid Meals from the Slow Cooker (thekitchn.com)
- Slow Cooker Monday (adashofdomestic.wordpress.com)
- Slow Cooker Recipes for Summer (planetpookie.com)
- The Trick to Spending Less Time Cooking (self.com)
- An Easy Tip for Tastier Slow-Cooker Meals (simplystated.realsimple.com)
- Kitchen Workhorse: The Slow Cooker (karencooking.wordpress.com)