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.