Barley: Food of the Gods?

...or perhaps, food for the goddess? ...ahem...

I've told you before how much I love barley. Looking for interesting tidbits of this now-favorite food of mine, I found that barley was quite an important grain for the Celts too. In Wales, they even had a god, Taliesin, to rule over barley fields! In Norse mythology, the Norse gods, Skull and Thor, had a famous fight that created thunderstorms in a sacred barley patch. Other notable barley celebrations included Passover, which was originally a barley harvest festival, according to one website. In addition, early Egyptians and Greeks believed that barley was a sacred gift from the gods. Now, I know you can't believe everything you see on the Internet, but I'm happy to think that somewhere out there, there are others who have loved barley too and given it the place it deserves in our diets. :)

This is the recipe that started it all for me: Vegetable, chicken and barley soup, from The Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy. It's simple, filling and delicious without being too hearty for a Springtime meal...and if you're enjoying this Spring in Oregon, you need a little warmth and comfort to ride out the rain anyway. Plus, I was just excited that I got most of the carrots looking like little "cubes"...not exactly a "fine dice" but I was proud it didn't look like "big odd shapes"...carrots are not the easiest thing to "finely dice" for this goddess! Ha! Above the recipe is stated that pearl barley is packed with B vitamins, minerals, iron and calcium.

Vegetable, chicken and barley soup, from the Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy
Serves 6

3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 tsp. kosher salt
3 (4oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 leek, washed well, trimmed and finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow squash, trimmed and finely diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Combine barley, water, bay leaf and 2 tsp. salt in a small pot over medium high heat. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer 40 minutes or until barley is plump and the water has been absorbed. Add more water if necessary.

Place the chicken breast halves in medium pot and pour in the stock; bring to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through. Remove chicken from stock and set aside to cool. Reserve the stock. Dice chicken into 1/4" cubes. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, leek, celery, carrot and squash and saute for 3-5 minutes or until just beginning to soften. Stir in the diced chicken and stock, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the bay leaff from the barley and discard. Add the cooked barley and remaining salt to the soup; simmer for 5 minutes. (add additional stock if soup is too thick). Ladle equal portions of the soup into warm bowls and garnish with scallions and a squeeze of lime.

8 comments from you:

Kitchen Queen said...

I'll second you on the nomination for barley, I love it! But.....my daughter's digestive system doesn't. :-( But I'm really tempted to make that soup, and make her something different. Barley is way underrated in this country if you ask me!

Natalia said...

If it wasn't so hot out here I'd make this soup right away. But I guess it will just have to wait until fall, when the weather is a bit more soup-compatible.

vlb5757 said...

Michelle, I developed a taste for Barley when I was a vegetarian for a year. I ate it all the time and not always in a soup. I have a recipe for barley mixed in vegetables and baked in red bell pepper. Makes a great side dish.

Kate said...

I love barley too! Along with all other things hearty and whole (on a big of a quinoa kick right now). your soup looks great!

Nerissa said...

Mmmm... barley is good. The recipe sound delicious. The picture looks so tempting.
I suppose you could replace yellow squash with zucchini (sometimes we're lucky to even get zucchini).

michelle said...

KQ - That's right...I didn't realize until now that barley would have gluten in it - I always think of wheat products first. Do oats also?

FOK - Hello again! I'm jealous that you're having all that hot weather! It's still very spring-y and rainy here...I can't wait until it starts feeling like summer!

Vickie - that sounds delicious! I'm on the lookout for more barley recipes - maybe you could share yours sometime...after your poor finger is back up to par. Until then - hubby in the kitchen while you sit in the living room with a glass of wine and your feet up?!

Kate - 'all things hearty and whole' - I love that description! Quinoa is another favorite, although I don't have many recipes yet.

Nerissa - I think you could substitute all kinds of different veggies and it would still be delicious. Yellow squash would be great!

Anonymous said...

I love Barley too!! In fact, right now I am having a bowl of cooked barley with a little vanilla creamer mixed in for lunch :)

michelle said...

It's definitely some great stuff! I like the vanilla creamer idea...thanks!