Friday, September 28, 2012

Barley Beauty

Barley is an underused but powerfully healthy cereal grain.  And while many are familiar with pearled barley, the creamy white grain found in many barley soups and salads, it is actually not considered a whole grain.  The term "pearled" refers to the removal of the precious bran removed, which depletes the grain of its complete nutritional integrity. 

Hulled barley is the only kind of barley that can be truly referred to as a whole grain, as only the inedible hull has been removed during its processing.  Two delicious forms of barley are hato mugi barley (also known as Job's Tears) are black barley.  Hato mugi barley is a richer, softer form of barley that is truly delicious but can be difficult to find.  Black barley, on the other hand, is a bit chewier and firmer in texture, but is sometimes easier to locate in stores.

Whichever barley you choose, you are in for a fantastic experience!  Barley provides a rich, nutty flavor that is more full-bodied than other whole grains can be.  And its chewy, soft texture can provide a satisfying mouthfeel that adds great satiety to any dish.

Nutritionally, barley is exploding with minerals, complex carbohydrates, and soluble fiber.  This soluble fiber in particular makes it a wonderful food choice for people looking to reduce high blood cholesterol and blood sugars.  It is also excellent for weight management, as its rich fiber and water content make it a great way to add satiety to meals.

Energetically, barley is nourishing to the lungs and large intestines, by helping to balance the levels of moisture in the body.  It can also work to strengthen the kidneys, particularly black barley.  And as we move into fall and winter, these 3 organ systems are especially in need of tonification.  Choosing barley a few times a week can help keep us healthy and strong during the colder months.

A fantastic fall and winter barley dish is a warm black barley salad with winter squash.  Try out this wonderful dish this autumn and keep your body strong!

Black Barley and Butternut Squash Salad
Serves 4

1 cup black barley
4 cups water
3 cups diced butternut squash, peeled if desired
½ cup unsalted vegetable stock
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 bunch green scallions, chopped
Juice and zest of 1 orange
¼ cup cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the black barley and water in a pot.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour and set aside, draining any additional water that may remain.

Toss together the butternut squash, vegetable stock, curry powder, cinnamon, and garlic powder. Place on the baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes. Set aside.

In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked barley, butternut squash, almonds, scallions, orange juice and zest, and cilantro.  Serve warm or chilled.

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