Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Warm Barley with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries

Even though temps made it into the mid-70s yesterday, it is most definitely fall here in Wisconsin. The leaves are changing, orchards are bursting with apples to pick, and the threat of a hard freeze has made it necessary to cover my herbs and vegetables at night. I'm going to be sad when the icy hand of Jack Frost kills my modest garden, but I can take solace in the staple crops of fall, like Brussels sprouts. These bitty cabbages turn into delicious cruciferous candy when roasted, expertly paired with sweet-tart cranberries and rich walnuts in the main course grain salad. A perfectly balanced sauce of butter, balsamic, maple syrup, and citrus blends everything together, highlighting the nuances of each ingredient without overwhelming the dish. In my mind barley is fall and winter grain, but this could also be made with wheat berries (Middleton's original pick), quinoa, or even brown rice. Whole grains will work best here (i.e. no white rice), the nuttiness and chewiness a wonderful contrast for all the other components. The grain mostly serves as a canvas for other flavors, but each choice brings it's own subtle flavor, so pick whatever flavor and texture pleases you most. A warm and hearty bowl of fall, this vegetarian main is an exceptional way to celebrate the season.

Warm Barley with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Toasted Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries
adapted from The Fresh and Green Table by Susie Middleton
serves 4

1 cup pearled barley
Kosher salt
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure maple syrups
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Prepare barley according to package directions, set aside, and keep warm.

2. While the barley is cooking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Arrange the sprouts in a single layer in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish (they will be snug). Roast until brown and tender, stirring once, if you like, 18 to 22 minutes. If the sprouts finish ahead of the wheat berries, keep them in the pan, loosely covered with aluminum foil.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, vinegar, maple syrups, and lemon zest and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, just for about 15 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, one or two pieces at a time, whisking after each addition until the butter is melted and creamy. (Don't reheat the mixture, or the butter will break and the sauce will not be creamy.) In a large mixing bowl, combine the wheat berries, Brussels sprouts, and cranberries; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt; and pour the sauce over them. Stir gently but thoroughly. Add half the walnuts and half the parsley and stir well again.

4. Serve warm, garnished with the remaining walnuts and parsley.

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