Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Barley

I've fallen in love with a new grain, or an old one, I guess.  Typically brewed into beer or fed to cows or horses, it is sometimes malted to mix with milkshakes for an old-fashioned flavor.  I love it best cooked, though, a handful tossed into my soup or boiled to mix into an eggplant dish.  

And speaking of such things... I made soup!  From scratch, simmered for a half hour, vegetarian (of course), even vegan soup, if I felt like olive oil rather than butter that day.  I've made three pots so far, each better than the last, and a joyous eggplant baked thing with barley, inspired by various sources and particularly, Smitten Kitchen.  Hers is much more luxurious, with cheese and pasta instead of my plain barley, but I will humbly submit mine into the running.  

I never took pictures of my soup, mostly because I didn't expect to be blogging again anytime soon.  My research has ramped up exponentially, my homework load doubled and with three midterms expected in the next three weeks, I had vowed earlier this semester to take a break from blogging.  This was mostly influenced by my failure to keep up my Korea blog (which still harbors ambitions to be caught up one day) and even this one.  I had meant to continuously document my meals in Korea, but I became overwhelmed by the sheer number, variety and quality.  

And so my blog becomes, as it really always was, a tiny snapshot into my life at various times when I can spare a moment.  It had dreams of becoming like Kirbie's Cravings or use real butter or even David Lebovitz, although I don't have the discipline to post everyday, nor do I have the writing talent of these amazing people.  Instead, it will simply be, a pure reflection of sometimes confused bits and pieces that I choose to share.  If you are still here, thank you, for coming.  Thank you for coming back, or just being curious and poking into my little corner of the giant, giant web.

Yes, I pack my lunch everyday.  This was an awesome lunch.

Eggplant and Barley heavily adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes enough to fill a 9" x 13" pan

2 lb. eggplant, diced into ¾" cubes
Salt for the eggplants, maybe ½ a tablespoon? 
¾ cup barley 
~¼ cup olive oil (I used a few short pours into the pot) 
½ bunch celery, finely diced
~3 oz. baby carrots or 1 medium carrot, finely diced (I cook with what I've got) 
½ onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced (I'd throw in another one, but then, I adore garlic)
½ cup of canned tomatoes, small dice (seriously, that's what it said on the can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper (but I use the cheap stuff, so use less if you use peppercorns)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup fresh basil leaves from your friend's garden (I got so lucky!  Thank you, A!)

1 medium (large if you have it) pot for cooking
1 large bowl for holding things
1 small/medium bowl for holding more things
1 cutting board and a knife (well... all I have is a $5 paring knife...)
1 9" x 13" baking pan
1 wooden spoon for cooking/rubber spatula for bowl scraping 
1 teaspoon measure or ordinary spoon for extremely rough guesstimations 
Paper towels (optional, I didn't have any)


1.  Chop the eggplant, if you haven't already.  Toss it with the salt until completely coated, then let sit for about 30 minutes in the large bowl.  Either chop the rest of your ingredients, or be kidnapped by your sweet boyfriend who takes you out to your favorite frozen yogurt place for a spontaneous, 20-minute date :)  But if that happens, you shouldn't do the next step just yet.  Or you should call your suitemate and have her turn off the fire, so the apartment doesn't burn down.  Anyway.

2.  Rinse the barley once, probably in the other bowl.  In the pot, cook the barley.  I cooked it like pasta, boiling water, tossing it in and letting it simmer for 20 minutes.  Otherwise, you can cook it like rice, adding about 1½ cups of water to the barley and simmering for 20 minutes.  

3.  Meanwhile, chop the celery and carrots and put them in the medium bowl.  Chop the onions and garlic, leaving them on the cutting board.  If you were prepared, and already had all this stuff chopped, hurrah!  You get some free time!  If not, well, join the rest of us...  Once the barley is cooked, turn the fire off and just let it sit.  Drain and rinse the eggplant really well, then plop it all into the 9" x 13" pan to dry for a little while.  Drain or fluff (stir) the barley, and store it all in the large bowl recently vacated by the eggplant.

4.  In the pot, heat it up and pour in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, or all of it, if your pot is large enough to hold all the eggplant in one go.  Mine wasn't, so I cooked the eggplant in batches.  Once the oil is hot and shimmery, toss in the eggplant, or half of it.  Cook for about 8 minutes.  Once all of the eggplant is cooked, scoop it out and keep it in the 9" x 13" for now.  Draining on paper towels is optional, but I didn't have any.

5.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

6.  In the oil that previously cooked the eggplant, cook the carrots and celery for a few minutes, then add the onions and garlic.  Cook the whole thing for about 5 minutes, then add the barley and tomatoes.  In between stirring, shred the basil if you have it.  I rolled it up and cut small slivers, essentially.

7.  You're almost done!  Add the salt, pepper, oregano and basil.  Dump the whole thing into the 9" x 13" pan to join the eggplant and mix it all up until sort of homogenous.  Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until all the flavors have a chance to mix.  Enjoy!

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