Barley Salad with Almonds and Parsley

After a long day's travel or during the midweek work slump, this barley salad is just the thing I want to eat. Chewy grain, toasted nuts, salty tangy cheese, and fresh herbs tossed with a lemon vinaigrette tastes refreshing and hearty. It's an easy and flexible dish to pull together. Yes, please.

Barley Salad with Almonds and Parsley (baby lettuce leaves are tucked in here)

Barley Salad with Almonds and Parsley (baby lettuce leaves are tucked in here)

Barley Salad with Almonds and Parsley 

Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine | May 2008

The original recipe uses walnuts instead of almonds which I think would be delicious. I didn't have walnuts on hand so I threw in toasted almonds instead.  I also used Mizithra cheese -- a fresh and fairly crumbly salty cheese made from goat or sheep's milk -- in place of the ricotta salata for the same reason. The idea is to get something toasty and crunchy from whatever nut (or seeds) you like, earthy chewiness from the grain, and salty umami from the cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups pearled barley (9 ounces)
  • 1 cup almonds (4 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (about 1 cup)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the barley over high heat until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the barley and rinse under cold water to cool thoroughly. Drain again, shaking out the excess water.

Meanwhile, spread the almonds in a pie plate and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Coarsely chop the nuts.

In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, garlic and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Add the barley, parsley and ricotta salata and toss gently. Add the toasted almonds, toss again and serve.  Serves 6.

Make Ahead:  The salad can be refrigerated overnight.

Springtime at Pike Place Market

There's really nothing like fresh, sweet berries to brighten up an otherwise grey day. Fortunately, there's Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA, a veritable playground of fresh produce and local food stuffs.  Boy, did I wish I could take everything home with me!

The Los Angeles Times Picks Eight Great Condiments of the World

I came across an article in the Los Angeles Times titled, "Eight Great Condiments of the World: A Highly Selective Guide" as picked by the LA Times staff, and while I think it's impossible to choose just eight condiments from a worldwide selection of flavors, the eight discussed here are pretty popular and definitely worth featuring.

Also? I geek out on stuff like this! I've copied the LA Times article here and added links for further explanation of each condiment, related articles of interest, and recipes. (Oh yes, I'm a hoot at parties...)

Photo credit: Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times

By Los Angeles Times Food staff

(Links added by Okay Cook)

Since we don't have the space or time to count, define or even (sadly) try all the condiments in the world, we thought we'd pick out eight of our favorites. Here are eight wonders of the world, as it were, each in their own small bowls. 

Fish sauce. Photo credit: bbc.co.uk

Fish sauce. Photo credit: bbc.co.uk

Fish sauce: A mother sauce (to steal a term from the French) of Southeast Asia in which lots of fish are fermented in vats of brine. Then the liquid is aged in the sun and bottled. Imagine.

The Kikkoman soy sauce bottle

The Kikkoman soy sauce bottle

Soy sauce: Another mother sauce of Asia (or maybe it's the universal condiment). Ingredients: usually soy beans, wheat and salt.

One brand of Gochujang

One brand of Gochujang

 

Gochujang: A pungent Korean paste made from red chiles, glutinous rice, soybeans and salt. Traditionally fermented in pots, earthenware and outdoors — for many obvious reasons.

 

 

An even better dip for fries (sorry, ketchup)

An even better dip for fries (sorry, ketchup)

Mayonnaise: No, we're not talking about the stark white globs you find in plastic tubs at the grocery store. Real mayo is a pale yellow color, made with egg yolks, vinegar, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, oil and salt. It will make your sandwiches taste like they are on flavor steroids.

Mustard in different forms

Mustard in different forms

Mustard: Most of us are familiar with hot mustard (the one at Philippe's will burn your nostrils); yellow mustard (the only acceptable hot dog condiment); Dijon mustard (ideal French fry dip) and Asian mustard (a must for dim sum). Usually made with mustard seeds, salt and other seasonings, sugar, vinegar and water.

Ketchup: To quote chef Sang Yoon, who makes his own hot sauce for Lukshon and bans ketchup from Father's Office: "Seems it originated in China. Originally a thin, brown, pickled and fermented fish-based sauce with added fruit that more resembled a funky soy sauce, the original ke-tsiap would probably destroy a perfectly good order of fries."

Photo credit: Tim Morris

Photo credit: Tim Morris

Worcestershire sauce: According to an anecdotal mention in the Oxford Companion to Food, it's the result of an accident in a chemist's shop in Worcester, England (an Indian spice vinegar fermented and was forgotten in a cellar). The end result (vinegars, molasses, sugars, salt, anchovies, tamarind, onion, garlic) made its way to become an emblematic part of British food. It's the bridge between fish sauce and steak sauce.

Photo credit: geek.com

Photo credit: geek.com

Sriracha : A variation of traditional Thai Sriracha, the product we know was created in 1980 by David Tran of Huy Fong Foods and manufactured in Irwindale. Ingredients include chili, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar, potassium sorbate, sodium, bisulfate and xanthan gum. It's known for its bright red bottle, Kelly green cap and sketch of a rooster (hence sometimes called "rooster sauce").

Breathtaking Pond in Japan

Happy Friday! Right now I'm daydreaming about beautiful places I've never been to. Even though I've spent a good amount of time traveling around the country and the world (lucky part of my working life) there are still so many places to discover. It's inspiring to go to a new place to see what people can do with their own cache of ingenuity and resources! That energy lifts you up. On the flip side, witnessing a place formed by nature, apparently untouched, not formed by human hands nor could it be, is an experience that grounds you. It says, Hey don't worry because it's not all in your hands. It feels light and humbling at the same time.

This pond is in Hokkaido, Japan. It changes colors every day. I first came across these images in National Geographic, photos by Kent Shiraishi.
 

Location: Biei in Hokkaido,Japan.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Seven years ago I made my very first batch of biscuits from this recipe. I've experimented with a variety of biscuits since then, but this recipe is still my favorite. The process isn't fussy and it delivers a fluffy biscuit with crunch around the edges and tender layers throughout. I moved from east coast humidity to an arid west coast habitat and these biscuits have turned out well everywhere, all year round. There's comfort in a go-to recipe like this. Comfort and butter. I'm glad for both.

Buttermilk Biscuits  

Adapted from Gourmet | June 2005

The biscuits pictured above I cut with a biscuit cutter but most of the time I don't take the time to cut out and reshape the dough and will do as written in the recipe, except I don't trim the edges to make a perfect rectangle. I actually think it looks prettier when the edges aren't perfect and you don't waste any of that delicious biscuit dough.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups (7.5 ounces/ 280 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • Rounded ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (57 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing biscuits

 

Preparation

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper, then sift again into a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist).

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently 6 times. Pat out dough on a floured surface with floured hands, reflouring surface if necessary, into an 8- by 5 1/2-inch rectangle. Trim all 4 sides with a knife, dusting knife edge with flour before each cut. Cut rectangle in half lengthwise, then into thirds crosswise to form 6 (2 1/2-inch) squares, flouring knife between cuts. Transfer biscuits with a metal spatula to an ungreased baking sheet, arranging them 2 inches apart, and brush tops with milk or cream. Bake until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature. Makes 6 biscuits.

Lemon Salt

Boy, did we ever get a bumper crop of Meyer lemons this year. Our little tree was so heavy with lemons and so neglected by us that it just upped and fell over in the backyard. Clearly this was a Hail Mary attempt to get our attention, and it worked. We picked the lemons and propped up the tree, receiving pricks and scratches from its thorny branches; punishment for our neglect. At one point I think I heard the words "I regret nothing!" before the tree stabbed me again. There was blood. I got the message.

Meyer lemons, if you've never had them, are sweeter than the regular variety found in supermarkets and have a thinner skin with an intensely floral, fruity scent. Our friend in Colorado plans to make limoncello from the boxes we sent him. I only mention this so he can save me some for our next visit (pretty please?).

If you happen to have a few lemons (or any citrus fruit, really) then you can zest their skins into a salt mixture for a wonderfully fragrant seasoning. Use it on fish, chicken, vegetables, even dessert. The brightness of the lemon peel mixed with salt adds a great dimension of flavor.

I started with Heidi Swanson's recipe from her blog 101 cookbooks and then tweaked it to my tastes (adding more zest because I had it). I also skipped the oven time called for in the recipe and just spread the seasoning on a plate to dry overnight. I prefer this method because it's easier and there didn't seem to be any noticeable difference. Keep in mind that easier doesn't always mean better... but it does always mean easier. Do what you will with that.

One last thing I should mention is the "best practice" method for using a microplane/zester. Hold the lemon still in one hand, and with your other hand place the zester on top of the lemon and comb the tool towards you (see photo).

Run the zester over the lemon, not the other way around

Run the zester over the lemon, not the other way around

Why do it this way? Because the tool is less slippery than the lemon, lighter to manipulate, and has a convenient handle to hold onto which the lemon decidedly does not have. Same goes for hard cheeses. I've seen people run cheese/citrus over the zester balancing to garnish their dishes and I get the allure, but pushing an awkwardly shaped piece of food down onto a sharp surface increases your chances of slipping and running your hand into those teeth. Ouch. Just as you wouldn't turn your kitchen knife upside down and run an onion down onto it, please don't do it with a handheld plane. Cool? On to the recipe.

Lemon Salt

Adapted from the "Citrus Salt" recipe by Heidi Swanson

I used Maldon sea salt flakes here, but you can certainly experiment with other kinds of salt. Also, try to buy good, organic, citrus. And avoid waxed citrus. If that's what you have on hand though, just be just to give it a good scrub with warm water. Also, dry completely before zesting.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup / 2.25 oz / 65 g flaky sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon citrus zest

Preparation

Preheat your oven to oven 225F / 105C. Combine the salt and citrus in a medium bowl and mix well. Really work the zest into the salt, making sure there aren't any clumps of zest. Spread across a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 70 minutes, or until the citrus is completely dried out (or if you don't mind the clutter just leave it out till it looks dry). Flecks of zest should crumble when pinched between your fingers. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. At this point you can pulse each salt a few times in a food processor if you like. Or, you can enjoy it as is. Salts keep in an air-tight jar for a couple of months.

Makes 1/2 cup of finishing salt.

Prep time: 5 min - Cook time: 70 min

How To Use Grease Pencils

So you throw leftovers in the fridge and go on with your busy life. Of course. But then you find yourself rummaging through a pile of mystery containers wondering how long whatever-this-is has been in there...

The only thing that feels worse than throwing out perfectly good food is eating food that looked fine but had actually expired.

grease pencils

grease pencils

No? You've never done that? Me neither. Ahem.

Sharpies work fine on disposable sandwich bags. For everything else, I've tried using label makers, writing on masking tape and sticking it to containers, even rubber bands with pieces of paper tucked into them. Meh. Label makers can get expensive and the other options are clumsy at best. So my ears perked up when I heard about grease pencils on The Splendid Table (great radio show for food lovers) and how you can use them to label glass jars and plastic containers to keep track of food stuffs. Since it was a holiday episode, they were mostly talking about writing on wine glasses so you don't lose yours at parties.

I couldn't believe it. People put their wine glasses down at parties?? And why haven't I heard of grease pencils before? Apparently they've been around forever, are cheap to buy in bunches, and wash off almost all surfaces. I had to have them.

Marking the date with a grease pencil. It washes off!

Marking the date with a grease pencil. It washes off!

Turns out I did have them. In the shop! We use them to mark raw materials like wood and metal; I just never knew them as "grease pencils". Grease pencils (aka wax pencil, china marker, chinagraph pencil, or nerd pen) are made in different ways. Some are like regular pencils so they need to be sharpened with a knife or pencil sharpener, others self-sharpen with a little string that spirals paper off the pencil as you pull on it. The pencils we have (pictured) are similar to mechanical pencils: you twist the end and a slim stick of marking wax comes out. We like these because they're easy to clip to our pockets in the shop and you can push the wax back down into the plastic casing.

grease pencil 3

They're so common for industrial, craft, and artistic applications but it never crossed my mind to bring them into the kitchen. Huh. Changed forever.

Dutch Baby

My husband is a pancake connoisseur. The way he sees it, American-style pancakes are sufficient as a plate-sized vessel for maple syrup but otherwise too dense, too cakey. Their singular texture and sweetness turn monotonous after just a few bites. Halfway through the stack and your stomach starts to protest under the weight. I'm with him on this, and I'm not fond of the way it turns me into a pancake factory while everyone else enjoys breakfast, either.

dutchbaby2015-01-17

Enter the Dutch Baby. Make one and it feeds 2-3 people (or just 1 person according to my husband). Active time is minimal and we all eat together. The dramatically puffed pancake is a mix of textures with crisp edges, a light and tender center, and just enough chew to remind you that it's breakfast and not dessert (though it'd make a fine dessert). A squeeze of fresh lemon and a healthy glug of maple syrup makes a sweet-tart combination that's just plain fun. Powdered sugar lends a pretty finish and no one would guess that it only took about 20 minutes to make.

This recipe was featured in “Recipe Redux; 1966: David Eyre's Pancake” and appeared in a New York Times article by Craig Claiborne.

Dutch Baby

Adapted from "David Eyre's Pancake", NY Times

Ingredients

  •     2 eggs
  •     ½ cup flour
  •     ½ cup milk
  •     Pinch of ground nutmeg
  •     4 tablespoons butter
  •     2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  •     Juice of half a lemon
  •     Fig or blackberry jam, pear butter or any kind of marmalade, for serving (optional)*

*Jam is good but there are Canadians in our house so maple syrup is a requirement.

Preparation

    Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the flour, milk and nutmeg and lightly beat until blended but still slightly lumpy.

    Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet with a heatproof handle over medium-high heat. When very hot but not brown, pour in the batter. Bake in the oven until the pancake is billowing on the edges and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

    Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and, using a fine-meshed sieve, sprinkle with the sugar. Return to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve with jam, pear butter or marmalade.

*Note:  The pancake totally works at 425°F but I recently tried it at 450°F and the pancake puffed even higher and was less wet in the middle. Depending on your oven it may work this way for you, too. I’d recommend the higher temperature if you live in high altitude.