Christmas dinner was spent in New Jersey this year with The Partner’s family. It was a lively event full of laughter, presents (you can see my Xmas loot here) and most importantly food. People started arriving around 1pm and a “light” lunch was served around 2:30pm at which point food kept rolling out of the kitchen until 6:30pm when dinner was served. Every family member contributes dishes and we had everything from Taiwanese meatballs (pork and scallop balls rolled in rice & steamed), Chinese marinated pig ears and Italian eggplant parmesan. I contributed desert this year by preparing two large chocolate cakes; one with caramel frosting & one with chocolate espresso frosting. On a side note, baking in a household that doesn’t bake was no small feat, the highlight being trying to make caramel in a pot with a chopstick.
While everything was delicious, there was one dish I kept coming back to because it was a pleasant mix of flavor, texture and aroma. Our cousin Rachel made a Sephardic barley sauté that was sweet yet savory, aromatic & nutty and had a wonderful mouthful about it. This side dish is completely vegan and makes the perfect pot luck dish as it can be served hot or cold. To make it a main dish, add in smoked tofu, chicken or even some garlic roasted prawns/shrimp.
Sephardi Barley Sauté
Yield: 12 servings Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 50 minutes
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked barley
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 medium white onion chopped (optional)
1 lb. mushrooms (any kind you like… I like shitake and crimini) coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped dill, cilantro, parsley or a combination
3/4 cup dried apricots finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add barley, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt. Return to boil, cover and lower heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
While the barley is standing, in a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. If using onion, sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and season with thyme, salt and pepper to taste. If needed add more oil. Sauté until mushrooms are softened and glistening, about 8 minutes.
With the skillet still at medium heat, combine barley with mushrooms. Stir to combine. Add 1/4 cup of water, lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream.
Just before serving, toss together nuts, fresh herbs, apricots and barley mixture with dressing. Garnish with almonds and sprig of parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Thank you to Rachel Tu for contributing this recipe. Not only is she a fantastic cook, but she is the kick butt seamstress who made me my Christmas “mapron“.