Barley with Fennel, Apples and Dates
Barley is such a versatile grain. It’s easy to cook, retains a nice texture and keeps in the fridge for a number of days. When I cook barley I usually cook more than I need so I have some on hand ready to be incorporated into soups, salads, vegetables dishes, breakfast and even desserts (think barley pudding). In this recipe I use barley that has already been cooked and add it to the sautéing fennel together with dates and apples. A little of apple juice brings the flavours together and moistened the dish. It can be served warm on its own or as a side to another main dish, or served at room temperature combined with sturdy greens as a salad. A handful of nuts can add a nice crunch. Try hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts. I finish the dish with a sprinkling of chopped fresh mint. It gives a surprise element of flavour and fragrance.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 fennel, diced, some frond reserved
1 cup dates, chopped
1 small green apple, diced
1/2 a lemon
1 cup barley, cooked
1/3 cup apple juice
1/4 cup mint, chopped
Salt and pepper
To cook the barley place barley and 2 1/2 cups water or stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until barley is cooked through but not mushy. Drain excess liquid and set barley aside.
Cut apple into small dice and place in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon over and mix to prevent the apples from browning. Set aside, keeping the half lemon you just squeezed.
Heat olive oil in a skillet, add fennel and cook a few minutes until softened. Add dates and cook another couple of minutes, stirring.
Add the barley and the half squeezed lemon and stir to coat the barley with the oil and combine the ingredients.
Add the apples with the juice that was collected in the bowl.
Add 1/3 cup apple juice and cook for another couple of minutes until the juice is absorbed, stiring gently. Taste and add salt and pepper.
Remove from heat, sprinkle with chopped mint and fennel fronds, pile on a plate and serve warm.
To serve cold, combine the barley with sturdy greens such as radicchio, arugula or romaine, add chopped nuts, toss and serve with lemon wedges.