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Edamame, Spinach & Brussels Sprouts Barley

Posted Oct 14 2011 8:54am
Cheap. Easy. Fast. It reads like a less-than-discrete ad on Craig's List. But it's meant to describe my take on my take on a fast-food dinner.

From the comments I receive, it's clear that I'm not the only one who loves healthy meals that are quick and easy (perhaps close to a decade of graduate school helped me figure that out, too).  And if the meals are frugal, all the better.

This quick and easy assemblage of barley and vegetable was loosely inspired by fried rice, which is ironic, because I do not like the fried rice at Chinese restaurants. At all. Especially the kind with the red food coloring-dyed bits of pork freckled throughout. But Kevin loves fired rice, and I love the idea of rice and vegetables scrambled together, so this recipe was born.

The key ingredients are ones I keep on hand all the time for fast food cooking. First up, frozen vegetables. I love a farmers' market as much as the next person, but one cannot live by turnips and kale alone. So whether it's for a spur-of-the-moment dinner or impromptu lunch, I love having a freezer stocked with frozen vegetables. And the 88 cents a bag price for the store brand satisfies my inner cheapskate (ok, more for organic; but check the dirty list for which fruits and vegetables are worth splurging for organic, which aren't)

Second on deck, fresh spinach. It's so easy to add a handful of spinach to,well, just about anything for an easy meal, whether a soup, salad, stew, stir-fry, omelet, tofu scramble. Plus, it keeps a day or two longer in the crisper than lettuce.

And last, quick barley, a wonder product if ever there was one. This isn;t the barley version of minute rice where the grain stripped of all things nutritious; rather, regular pearled barley is steamed and flattened (dry, it looks much like old-fashioned rolled oats). The grain remains intact, so while the barley cooks in a record time of 10 minutes, the end result is as healthful as regular pearled barley.

Now back to the recipe at hand. This is one delicious dish; the Brussels sprouts have a sweetness that is positively scrumptious in combination with the nuttiness of the sesame oil, nuts, and barley, and the spinach and edamame add a freshness to what is otherwise pure comfort food. Enjoy!

FYI: Quick barley, and pearl barley, are often shelved in the soup section of the supermarket (go figure), not with rice and other grains.

Be sure to wait a few minutes before adding the edamame to the saucepan with the barley--you want to retain some of the bite of edamame, as well as the bright green color.

If you think you don't like Brussels sprouts, try them here. The frozen ones tend to be sweeter than fresh, with almost no bitterness. Just let them thaw a little bit (or microwave for 20-30 seconds) to make them easier to slice.

Barley with Edamame, BrusselsSprouts and Spinach

Makes 2 servings (easily doubled or tripled)

1/2 cup quick-cooking barley (e.g., Quaker Quick Barley or Mother's Quick Barley )
1 cup frozen edamame beans
2 tsp toasted (dark) sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a 1-lb pkg frozen brussels sprouts, thawedslightly
4 packed cups fresh, pre-washed spinach leaves
dash of sriracha or other hot sauce, and a dash of soy sauce
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped

1.            Bring1 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan overmedium-high heat. Add the quick barley, cover, and reduce heat to low; simmer 6minutes.
2.            Stirin the edamame and cover; continue cooking 3-4 minutes until barley is tenderand edamame is bright green. Remove from heat.
3.            Trimends off of sprouts, then sliced horizontally.
3.            Heat sesameoil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook ginger and garlic until fragrant,about 1 minute. Add the spinach and sprouts; cook and stir 1 minute until spinachhas just wilted. Stir in barley and edamame. Season to taste with salt and sriracha,then serve sprinkled with peanuts.

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