Easy dinner recipes: Soup, salad and stew ideas for barley lovers

Soup, salad and stew recipe ideas for barley lovers

You don't just have to be a cereal or beer fan -- or a natural foods junkie -- to love barley. This ancient grain has long been used in a variety of ways, and it's perfect for adding substance and heft to a variety of recipes, from breads to soups and stews, as well as salads. Check out these ideas:

Cucumber and yogurt soup with barley: For a soup at once filling and refreshing, you can't beat this recipe, which combines cool cucumbers and yogurt with fresh garlic, mint and dill, along with pearl barley and crunchy walnuts. The soup will be ready to serve in about 45 minutes, with flavors that only improve as it chills.

Mediterranean barley salad: This hearty salad combines barley, oregano, olives, capers, pine nuts and green onions tossed with a bright lemon vinaigrette.

Lentil and barley stew: For those chilly nights, you can't beat a rich bowl of hot lentil and barley stew. This simple recipe comes together in under an hour, and is perfect served with crumbled feta and olives.

LENTIL AND BARLEY STEW Total time: 50 minutes / Servings: 4

Note: This recipe is adapted from a 1971 edition of " The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook" by Jean Hewitt. I serve it with little bowls of crumbled goat feta cheese and olives on the side.

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 onion)

1/2 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)

2 1/2 cups peeled chopped fresh or canned tomatoes

2 cups water

1/2 cup lentils

1/3 cup pearled barley

Salt and black pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1. In a large heavy saucepan heated over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil and sauté onion until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add celery and cook until softened, 5 minutes longer.

2. Add the tomatoes, water, lentils, barley, one-half teaspoon salt, one-fourth teaspoon pepper and the rosemary. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat 25 minutes stirring occasionally, until the barley and lentils are almost tender.

3. Add carrots and cook five minutes longer, or until the barley and lentils are tender.

Each serving: 286 calories; 9 grams protein; 35 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 6 grams sugar; 321 mg sodium.

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