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Food Friendly May | Manolo for the Big Girl

Food Friendly May

For the merry month of May, I’ve decided to use my weekend slot here at Manolo for the Big Girl to celebrate good food. Some of my posts will contain recipes, some recommendations for cookbooks or cooking equipment, or I might meander into tales of meals I have known and loved. Some of my posts may revolve around meat, while others will be vegetarian – and even vegan – friendly. I am an omnivore, but I absolutely respect that not everyone is. The one thing I will not promote here is diet food. If something I make is low in calories, it’s because the things I’m using are naturally low in calories. There will be no discussion of low-fat or low-calorie alternatives. After all, if you wish that information goodness knows there are enough sources to help you find them. If you need to watch cholesterol, carbs or fat for health reasons (like my diabetic husband with high cholesterol and a tendancy to high blood pressure), then some of these recipes and recommendations may need some tweaking for your needs while others are simply best avoided. The goal here is to celebrate food in all its glory. That goal does not include a side order of guilt. There will, however, be talk of pie.
All of that said, my first recipe is more of a thumbnail sketch of a family favorite at Chez Twistie. It’s vegan-friendly (though it can also be done with meat, if you prefer), and can be made without breaking – or even bending – Mr. Twistie’s carb and fat restrictions. What’s more, it makes an equally delicious main course or side dish, depending on precisely what you put in it and what else you choose to serve with it. It’s no fuss, seat-of-the-pants cooking for a steamy hot day, and everyone I’ve served it to has loved it. It’s also a great way of using up those tag-ends of unrelated veggies it’s so easy to accumulate in a fridge.


Twistie’s Barley Salad of Mystery

Boil up some pearl barley. How much depends on how many people you’re feeding and how hungry they are. If it’s just me and Mr. Twistie, very scant cup will do. If I’m feeding the troops, I’ll throw in the whole bag. I told you this wasn’t a very precise recipe.

When drained, place barley in a large salad bowl and allow to cool. Sprinkle liberally with rice vinegar, then salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to add in some fresh herbs such as dill or tarragon, or to toss in some spices like cumin or turmeric.

Take several varieties of fresh vegetables (some good choices include: bell peppers, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, jicima, green beans, red onions, carrots, bean sprouts…but experiment with anything that seems likely. Chances are, it will be tasty if it’s good cold) and slice, dice, sliver or otherwise make into bite sized pieces. If some are better cooked than raw, blanch them lightly. Add to the salad and stir to make sure the vinegar reaches everything. If preferred, now is the time to add a little chicken or tuna or some cheese such as feta. Other possible additions include: walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, currants or dried cranberries, olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes, bacon bits, or jalapenos. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Chill salad until it’s just about time to serve. It’s best if you can chill this one for at least a couple hours so the flavors get a chance to really settle in together.

Bon appetite!

12 Responses to “Food Friendly May”

  1. Anpan May 3, 2008 at 12:48 pm #

    That’s one of my favourite salads! I learned the basics from my MiL, with corn, tomatoes, chives, peppers, and garden herbs. Barley is so good for you, it’s a great alternative grain. It’s a comfort food around my house.

    I’m looking forward to these recipes. I only use low-fat foods when I prefer them to the original, but most low-fat foods have gums like guar and xanthan in them. I’m allergic to those, so it’s all the yummy goodness for me. I cook with oils (grapeseed, almond, olive, walnut, canola) and fresh butter only; I switched from margarines and low-fat alternatives years ago and noticed no difference except in taste-quality. My skin improved, though!

  2. rosarita May 3, 2008 at 2:36 pm #

    Ooh, this sounds yummy. I make a rice salad that’s similar, but I never thought of using barley. Thanks, Twistie!

  3. Peaches May 3, 2008 at 4:56 pm #

    Thanks Twistie! I love this kind of salad and will try it this week. ‘Throw it together’ is the only way I cook. Anything more I leave to the professionals.

    Cant wait to read more.

  4. Toby Wollin May 3, 2008 at 7:53 pm #

    ooo, Twistie – I’m wondering if this will work with buckwheat groats too…

  5. Angel May 3, 2008 at 9:49 pm #

    I love the recipe/food post idea! I’ve never tried pearl barley, but I’m going to give it a go with this recipe. :)

  6. Twistie May 3, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

    Toby Wollin, if you try it with the buckwheat be sure to let us know how it works out. I’m betting it will be rather good, actually.

    Angel, my background is largely Scottish, so barley was a way of life from early on for me. In fact, I accidentally made my second risotto with it when I couldn’t find the rice and needed to cook in a hurry. Barley, incidentally, makes a kickass risotto.

  7. Rachael May 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm #

    I’m not sure if it’s buckwheat, but my family makes a very similar salad with wheat grains, although they have to soak overnight. The wheat is a red wheat my family grinds into our own flour. (Sometimes, we’re so wholesome, it hurts). My mom adds raisens or dried cranberries to it as well.

  8. Toby Wollin May 4, 2008 at 2:17 pm #

    Rachael – buckwheat is buckwheat – totally different family and not a grain at all really – it actually has flowers. It has no gluten in it, so it’s really good for people who have allergies to wheat. You can get buckwheat in all sorts of cookable forms, from flour(it comes in a plastic bag and frankly, I immediately put it in ANOTHER zip lock bag because once you get it open, you can’t close it up again), to groats(which are dehulled buckwheat kernals) to kasha(which is toasted groats). Great stuff. I am definitely going to try this recipe.

  9. Lunadog May 4, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    Great idea, Twistie! I need more encouragement to get back to cooking and I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts.

  10. Rachael May 5, 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    Oh good to know. Thanks Toby Wollin!

  11. Henway May 6, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    I made my own mystery version last night and served it with pork chops. I’ve never made barley salad, and can’t remember ever buying a bag, but I was bored with all my usual sides. It was yummy, and my husband liked it, too. A big deal, since he can be so-so on cold grain dishes. Since I made the troop feeding size, I’ll probably tart it up with chilled chicken for later in the week. Thanks for a good idea!

  12. Betsy May 6, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    Always on the lookout for new ideas since my elderly mother has to stick to a very low sodium diet. I bet she will really enjoy this one. I’ll post it on my “feedinmama” blog. Thanks!