Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recipe: Barley "Tabouli"

As I've mentioned previously, I have fallen in love with barley.  Recently, I decided that I wanted to elevate it above just a side dish in its own right and add some other flavors into the mix.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever looks fresh or that you have leftover.  The green onion could be switched for thinly sliced red onion.  Tomatoes could be cored and added, as could bell peppers.  In the fall you could use roasted eggplant.  The possibilities are endless.  Food Lion did not have any regular pearl barley, instead they had the Quaker Quick Cooking Barley.  I am happy to report it worked just as well and cooked in a fraction of the time so check it out if the 35 minute cooking time of the regular stuff intimidates you or just plain doesn't fit your schedule.

You will need:
1 cup quick cooking barley
2 cups low/no sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 cucumber, halved, seeded if necessary, and chopped
Chopped pecans, dry toasted, to taste (I used around a fourth to a third cup)
A handful of dried cranberries
3 green onions, chopped
A medium handful of parsley chopped fine
Garlic Powder

In a saucepan bring two cups of chicken stock to a boil.  Add salt (a dash for low sodium, a fourth teaspoon or so for no sodium stock), pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to the stock.  Add the cup of barley and stir.  Follow the directions on the packaging for cooking details but it will be 10-15 minutes at a simmer until the barley is tender.  For traditional barley follow the same instructions but cook 35 minutes.

As the barley cooks prepare the parsley, nuts and vegetables.  When the barley is finished cooking let it sit for about 3 minutes with the lid on and then add your prepped ingredients.  Stir to combine.

Serves around 6 and works well with any grilled meat and plays nice with other veggies/salads as sides.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ideas: The Open Faced Sandwich

When you are really trying to make an impression an open faced sandwich can be a great way to go.  In turn it can be elegant, rustic, or visually interesting as the ingredients are highlighted more than the bread choice as far as presentation.

When making one for myself, however, I love a wonderfully earthy, rustic bread that is sturdy and flavorful.  Ciabatta, foccachia, and other dense breads are a great choice.  It is especially nice to do when you have a bread that may be calorie heavy but tasty.  You still get the great punch of flavor but with less of the impact.

Toppings can be whatever you have on hand.  Onions, peppers, slaw, mushrooms, lunch meat, sliced chicken, pork roast, shredded beef, any type of lettuce or leafy green.

The open face can also be thrown under the broiler to meld the flavors (and melt any cheese you might add) or served room temperature.  Or you can toast the bread to melt the cheese and then add the toppings to have the best of both worlds.

This open faced sandwich is on a dense sourdough, which I put in the toaster and then topped with a sharp provolone and shredded chicken.  On that I then added a muffaletta olive mix.  This added a vinegar punch to the chicken and brightened an otherwise ordinary sandwich.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recipe: Wine Soaked Figs

I apologize for the long absence, the weeks surrounding the 4th of July had me having a blast but sadly away for a blog-able internet connection.  On the upside, I have some wonderful recipes, tips, and shout outs coming in the next few days.  Today I am going to show you an extremely easy and delicious appetizer or cheese plate/dessert accompanier.  Figs are a wonderful sweet chewy fruit who's true flavor is a far cry (for the better) from their Newton forms.  They can be a bit expensive so if you want to try this out try and find the dried figs on sale.  As for the wine, don't break the bank.  I used the Whole Foods brand Cabernet Sauvignon but any nice, inexpensive red wine (Barefoot or Yellowtail would also work) can be substituted.

You will need:

1 package dried mission figs (about 24)
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon

First cut the top bit of stem, if any is present, off of each fig then half them.  In a saucepan heat the two cups of wine over medium heat.  Add the figs and bring to a simmer.  Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until figs appear to stop absorbing liquid, stirring occasionally.  Remove figs from pan with a slotted spoon.  You can either pour some of the wine over them immediately or you can reduce the wine further to thicken it and intensify the flavor.

Can be served warm, room temperature, or cold depending on the purpose.