Barley: A most nutritious grainGive it a try in cabbage rolls, stuffed bell peppers.
By: Jeff Tiedeman, Grand Forks Herald
It’s fun to experiment when cooking. Some of my best dishes have been ones that I’ve created from scratch or ones that have been tweaked by changing one or more ingredients.
For example, shredded barbecued pheasant is something original that I came up with by improvising a recipe for barbecue sauce and combining it with the just the dark meat from the tasty game bird, which some people readily discard. I’ve even used sharp-tailed grouse in this recipe, and people who swore they never liked eating the gamey bird became converts.
Another recipe I’ve authored is my spicy beans — a concoction that also contains the revamped barbecue sauce and three kinds of legumes, usually kidney, garbanzo and navy. It has become a family favorite over the past few years.
Oftentimes, when I make changes to recipes or come up with something new, nutrition is what drives my creativity.
My most recent innovation involves a couple of old favorites — stuffed bell peppers and stuffed cabbage leaves (cabbage rolls or pigs in a blanket, as some people like to call them). Both dishes usually call for a filling made with some sort of ground meat and white rice mixed together with a little onion and seasonings.
When making either of them over the past couple of years, I’ve usually substituted brown or wild rice for the white and either ground buffalo or venison for beef, my way of making it healthier.
The new twist I’ve come up with is to substitute barley for the rice in those two recipes. Barley appears to have originated in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia, where it has been cultivated for more than 10,000 years, as a food for humans and animals, as well as to make alcoholic drinks.
A healthy addition
Barley is an excellent source of insoluble and soluble fiber. The latter helps to reduce the overall cholesterol level in the blood and also reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, the heart-healthy benefits of barley are so significant that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a health claim that barley beta-glucan soluble fiber reduces the risk of heart disease.
Barley also is rich in the nutrients niacin and iron, is a very good source of fiber and the antioxidant selenium and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese.
In other words, intake of barley very likely will help you maintain overall health in the long term.
My use of barley over the years mostly has been confined to soups. I received my introduction to the grain when my dad used to include it in his homemade vegetable beef soup. (See recipe on this page.) I still recall many a meals featuring the soup as the main course. It was a great way to fill up on low-calorie vegetables (carrots, rutabagas, cabbage, etc.) and liquids. And it always left me satisfied without feeling stuffed.
Dad used barley that was pearled, which means that the kernels are processed to remove the hull, bran and some of the inner layer. Of course, whole barley, also called hulled barley (the inedible husk has been removed), is much more nutritious than pearled barley because the bran is left intact.
However, barley contains fiber throughout the entire grain kernel, so the pearled variety still provides 3 grams of dietary fiber per ½-cup serving. (Other varieties of barley include scotch or pot barley, barley flakes and, quick-cooking barley).
Perhaps what I like most about barley is that it has better flavor than brown rice. I would describe it as kind of nutty.
And you know that old saying:
Sometimes, you feel like a nut …
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.