Barley (Recipe: Curried mushroom, green bean and barley soup)
You know you did.
You know you made the same New Year's resolutions I made: to try to learn Portuguese, and adopt a homeless cat, and give cauliflower and opera another chance, and read The New Yorker when it arrives every week instead of letting it pile up for months on the coffee table alongside cooking magazines you've been saving for a year or more but don't remember why, and eat more barley.
How about dietary fiber? And selenium, and magnesium, and niacin?
If those don't turn you on, how about weight loss, regularity, heart health and lower cholesterol?
Like wheat, barley -- one of the world's healthiest foods -- is a cereal grain. Hulled barley is the most nutritious, since only the tough outer hulls are polished off, leaving the bran intact. Pearl barley is polished to remove the outer bran layer, making it a bit less nutritious, but much quicker to cook.
Long a favorite of soup makers, barley moved on to a starring role in risotto several years ago. Its nutty flavor and chewy texture also work well in pie, pancakes, beef stew, salad, lemon-barley bread or a sweet apple casserole.
Every grocery store carries pearl barley, in the aisle with beans and rice. For hulled barley, you might need to visit a Whole Foods-type or health food market. Don't be afraid to buy from the bulk bin; barley will keep for more than two years in the pantry, if stored in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Curried mushroom, green bean and barley soup
Serves 2; can be doubled.
1/2 cup pearl barley
2 cups vegetable broth
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp madras (medium-mild yellow) curry paste, or 1/2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
12 green beans, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
Water, as needed
Place barley, broth and onion in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer, partially cover the pan, and cook for 20 minutes. Add curry paste, tomato paste, cumin, salt and pepper; stir, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green beans, and taste for seasoning, adjusting with salt and pepper as needed. If the soup is too thick, add a bit of water to thin. Serve hot, or let cool to room temperature and freeze.