Dinner This Week

Friday, December 9, 2011

On the Menu:

Cheesy Barley
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Celery Root and Apple Salad with Walnuts

I have made this Cheesy Barley recipe three times now but used different types of cheese each time. The first time I followed the recipe as it is written below, the second time I used cheddar instead of the Gruyere and it was overall a bit more mild, and this week I made a Quattro Formaggio version using up bits of cheese in the fridge. Let's see, I used a little mozzarella (leftover from my Quick Lasagna), goat cheese (leftover from my Roasted Veggie Salad), a little bit of pepper jack cheese, and some Parmesan. I didn't have thyme so I used a teaspoon or so of herbs de provence, which added an equally nice earthiness to the dish. And I used multigrain bread for the breadcrumb topping, which really rounded out the flavors and richness of the casserole. This recipe is really a "keeper" for anyone who likes cheese. It's cheesy without being overly cheesy or rich. I will even confess that I am considering liking this dish more than I like macaroni and cheese, which is like my all time favorite. The barley is chewy, nutty and flavorful and the stock and thyme (herbs) add a depth of flavor that macaroni and cheese lacks. I guess if I really had to choose between the two, I would say that there is a time and a place for both and it would really depend on my mood. But, I must say that Cheesy Barley is like wholesome Macaroni and Cheese and is addictively good. I made a crisp Celery Root and Apple Salad to go alongside the barley, which is quick and easy to make. I also roasted some brussels sprouts to round out the meal. (Note: I roasted the brussels sprouts at 400 degrees F with Cheesy Barley and they turned out just the same.)

Cheesy Baked Barley

Serves 6

This recipe is adapted from Giada’s Cheesy Baked Farro. It’s rich and comforting, yet not quite as rich as Macaroni and Cheese can sometimes be.

2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups pearled barley, rinsed
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (any kind), warm
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 1/2 pound)
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

In a large pot combine the 2 cups of vegetable stock with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed barley, stir and reduce to a simmer. Simmer without a lid for about 25 minutes or until the barley is tender, stirring occasionally. When the barley is tender, season with salt and pepper, and set aside to allow the barley to absorb any remaining liquid.

Meanwhile, grease a 9 by 13 inch pan with butter and preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Reserve 1/3 cup total of the grated cheese for the top of the dish.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter on low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour to the butter to make a paste. Slowly whisk in the milk to the flour/butter mixture. Continue to stir and cook over low/medium heat until the sauce has thickened. Turn the heat off and stir in the cheeses, salt, pepper and thyme.

Combine the barley and cheese sauce and transfer to the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved cheese and breadcrumbs on top of the barley. Place the pan on a larger roasting pan and bake for 25-30minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Celery Root and Apple Salad

Serves 4

This simple winter salad is refreshing, crisp and clean. The dressing measurements are approximate. Add more or less of the vinegar and oil to suit your personal tastes.

1/2 teaspoon mustard
pinch of salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon balsamic (or 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and some honey)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 crisp apples
2 medium size celery roots, peeled
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

To make the dressing, combine the mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice and lemon balsamic in a bowl. Use a fork or small whisk to whisk the ingredients while slowly pouring over the olive oil. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife to cut the apple and celery root into matchstick size piece. Place in a serving bowl and toss over half of the dressing. Enough to lightly coat the salad. Add more dressing as need. Toss in the parsley and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Toss in the toasted walnuts just before serving.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

If you think you don't like Brussels sprouts try them roasted before you settle on your decision. Roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven until they are caramelized and crispy takes away that gaggy cabbage flavor and brings out a wonderful nuttiness.

5-6 cups Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. To trim the brussels sprouts, removed the outer leafs and cut off the stem end. Cut in half. In a large roasting pan toss the brussels sprouts with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast for 25-35 minutes or until the brussels sprouts are caramelized and golden brown. Serve warm.


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