Barley with Mushrooms and Roasted Delicata Squash

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while, but November has been so darn busy! I came and went so quickly, I barely even had time to register it and now it’s December. And not only is it December, there’s about 6 inches of snow on the ground and I’m a week away from ending my stint here in Canada. Where does the time go? So before I say goodbye to my temporary home and all my new life-long friends, here’s a post about my new favorite squash and my new favorite wintery dish.

barley with mushrooms and squash

I’ve been really into barley lately. It’s got this great texture and it puffs up taking up a ton of flavor from the broth it cooks in. Also, it’s got all this protein and fiber, making it the perfect base of a vegetarian meal. This is called Pearled Barley. I buy it in bulk at the local natural foods store. And it cooks just like rice. So, as with rice, it has a lot of starch so it’s important to give it a good rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Even after rinsing, as it cooks it gives off starch and the final product is very similar to risotto – creamy and rich – but with an nutty aroma and firm texture.

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Then there’s squash – I’ve always been a fan of butternut squash, but delicata squash is amazing! It’s sweet and creamy and because it’s smaller it cooks much faster (yay!). I drizzled the squash with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled a little salt, brown sugar and cinnamon on it and then roasted it in the oven at 350 for about 20 min, or until it was fork tender, and crazy delicious. Seriously, you could just have this as a side dish for any meal this winter and be happy.

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So, now that the squash is roasted and the barley is rinsed, it’s time to cook. I cook the mushrooms on their own, on medium high, and then set them aside until the last couple minutes of cook time for the barley, which takes a good 25-30 minutes to cook, so that they don’t get weird and rubbery. This is a really simple, straight forward dish to make, but it’s flavorful and hearty – and perfect for the winter.

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Ingredients: (makes 2 servings as a main course)

Squash

  • 1 delicata squash, opened lengthwise, seeds removed and sliced into 1 inch semi-circles
  • 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the slices
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • a couple pinches (1/4 teaspoon) of cinnamon

Barley

  • about 10 medium cremini mushrooms (or any type you prefer), approximately 4 cups sliced
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, separated
  • 1 small onion (1 cup), finely chopped
  • garlic (optional)
  • 1 cup pearled barley, well rinsed and drained
  • 4 – 6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken, whatever you prefer), heated in a small sauce pan
  • 1 tablespoon of goat cheese, crumbled for the garnish

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prep the squash and spread, skin side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, sugar and cinnamon. Bake for about 20 minutes, until fork tender.

2. Wash, dry and slice the mushrooms. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to medium-high and sauté the mushrooms, tossing every couple minutes, until lightly browned – about 5-6 minutes. Set aside on a plate.

3. In the same pan, lower the heat to medium and heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic (if using), season with salt and cook until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the barley and keep cooking another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently so that the barley doesn’t stick to the pan. It will start to give off a toasty smell.

4. Add 2 cups of broth, stir and lower to low heat to simmer gently until all of the liquid is absorbed. Then add another cup of broth, stir and allow to absorb again. Do this again 1 to 3 more times until the barley is al dente (just try one grain to see if the center is cooked through). The amount of liquid can depend on the barley, so just keep an eye on it. Add the mushrooms, stir and turn off the heat.

Serve with a few slices of squash and a crumble of goat cheese (or Parmesan if you prefer). Enjoy!!

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Coconut Curry Lentils

Getting to spring around here feels like a little game of two steps forward, one step back. This week we had the warmest day in the two months I’ve been here (38 degrees – watch out!) followed immediately by one of the largest snowfalls in the two months I’ve been here. As I see pictures go up on various social media sites from friends and family around the world, all of them excited about the first flowers, picnics, and cañas al sol, I can’t help but feel a little left out. Apparently this is the worst winter Canada has experienced in 20-some years. So, I’m just warning you, when it does arrive, I’m probably going to talk about it a lot (not that I don’t already talk about it a lot).

Cold weather requires warm food. Lentils are filling without being heavy so they are perfect for winter (or Canadian spring) when you need some serious food as fuel to stay warm out there. These coconut curry lentils are so savory and comforting, and a little sweet from the winter squash.

Coconut Curry LentilsStart by letting the lentils soak over night, or if you plan to cook at night, you can let them soak during the day while you’re at work. You don’t have to soak legumes, but they cook much faster if you do. Soak them at least 8 hours in the pot you’re going to cook them in, covered by 2 or 3 inches of water. Then drain the water and fill the pot with fresh water, again covered by a couple inches. Then cook for 20 -30 minutes at a very soft simmer, so they don’t break apart, until they are tender.  1 and 1/2 cups dry lentils equals about 4 cups cooked, which will give you minimum 4 servings. I did this in the morning while I was having breakfast and getting ready for work, then I just drained the water and let them cool all day, but you can certainly do this while you make the remainder of the recipe.

Next, prepare the squash. I used one whole acorn squash, but, due to their irregular shape, they are kind of a pain to peel. Butternut squash or any other winter squash you like will work too. Cut, scoop out the innards and peel, then cut it up into 1 inch cubes.

Acorn squash

Then, in a large pan, heat 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté 1/2 of a large onion and 1 clove of garlic, both finely chopped. Add 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of yellow curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Spices

Side note: I love these adorable little spice jars!

Once the onion is translucent, add the squash and cook for a few more minutes at a medium-low heat. Then add about 4 cups of fresh spinach. Give it a rough chop first so the pieces aren’t so big. That cooks down really fast, so once it does, add the cooked lentils, 1/2 cup of cashews, 1 whole can of coconut milk + a can-full of water.

Spinach and lentils

And that’s all there is to it. Let that simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and a lot of the liquid has evaporated. The consistency should be thick, not brothy. Top it all off with about 1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro. I adore cilantro, but if you don’t feel as strongly about it as I do, leave it out, or substitute basil! That would be equally amazing.

Coconut Curry LentilsIt’s ready to serve right away, but also stores nicely. And now I’ll shamelessly plug my mom’s amazing ceramics! She gave me this bowl last time I was home, said it was a “mistake” and that the glaze somehow slipped off, but I love it! It reminds me of waves. Everything tastes better out of a pretty bowl!

ceramic ocean bowl

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!! I heard Ottawa takes it seriously, so I’m going to get out there and have myself a green beer!

Coconut Curry Lentils – Recipe (Serves 4-6)

  • 1.5 cups dry lentils or 4 cups cooked lentils
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1.5 tablespoons yellow curry
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash) peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 can coconut milk + 1 can full of water or broth
  • 1/2 cup cilantro or basil, chopped