Saturday, January 23, 2010

Joy of Cooking

Joy of Cooking...No, not the cookbook, although it's a good cookbook. Really, the thing that became very obvious to me this week is how much joy I derive from cooking.

If I had a full-time washing-up person I would probably do nothing but cook. Dishwasher machines don't still have to get the stuff into them and if you are making a number of dishes you will invariably need the measuring cup or pot that is still you wash it right away and get it dirty the best possible way.

So I do my own washing as I go along (as much as possible) and that limits...a many things I try to make in one day.

We had buckets of rain on Wednesday, so I stayed in and so had time to make a number of fun things. One of the best, surprisingly to me because I rarely think of a side dish as a candidate for the "best", was a barley and butternut squash layered casserole with gremolata.

I had roasted both halves of a nice butternut squash and only needed one half for another recipe I was making (to be seen here later if all goes well), so I went online and found the basis for this dish on the Eating Well blog. The URL is here. Their version is a pilaf with cubes of squash mixed in and cooked in liquid with the barley.

I went with layers since my squash was already cooked. The flavors of the barley and squash go well together and the gremolata adds a needed spark of lemon, parsley and garlic to liven things up.

This is a simple dish but delicious, healthy, full of fiber and vitamins, pretty to look at and full of flavor. What's not to like? Sweetie liked it enough to have seconds instead of meat...boy was my meat and potatoes man surprised by that! I took more of it to work for a dinner and everyone seemed to enjoy it a lot. Since butternut squash is a winter squash, those of us in the northern hemisphere can enjoy this now while eating a seasonal, inexpensive food.

Tip: Butternut squash has a hard skin sometimes. If you have trouble cutting your squash in half to roast it, pierce it a couple of times with a knife, then microwave for 2 minutes on high. Once you have cut it in half, you can remove the seeds with a melon baller or soup spoon, oil lightly and place cut side down on a baking sheet (or skip the oil and use a silicon baking mat as I did)

Roast at 450 degrees F until tender. Peel when cooled, slice thinly and it is ready for this recipe.

Second tip: Barley is an agricultural product. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the barley before cooking and check for and remove small pebbles.

Butternut Squash and Barley Layers with Gremolata

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cup pearl barley
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ medium butternut squash, roasted, peeled and sliced in ¼ inch slices
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth, water, and barley( and salt if using); bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Mix together parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside.

Butter a microwave safe casserole dish big enough to hold the barley and squash. Place half of the barley on the bottom and spread to make an even layer. Top with half the squash slices, placing close together but not overlapping. Sprinkle-spread half the parsley-lemon-garlic (gremolata) mixture over the squash slices Grind pepper over to taste.

Repeat to make next layer, using rest of barley, enough of the squash to cover but not overlap, the rest of the gremolata and season with pepper to taste. Chill casserole until ready to serve.

Just before serving, cover casserole and heat in the microwave for 5 minutes at half power. Test center to see if sufficiently warm to enjoy. If not, microwave another minute at a time at half power until hot. Serve at once.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.


  1. Oooohh this butternut squash looks just perfect! I love the idea of a pilaf with this too. Funnilly enough, as I read your post, the skies opened up here and its Pouring!

  2. I always handwash things I use while cooking (much to the dismay of DH). One of the things that make me happy is lovely stuff going in the oven/stove and a clean slate to start the next project. Silly me.

  3. Anonymous4:54 PM

    This looks soooooo delicious, I cannot wait to try it. I am on a big farro kick, so might try that in place of the barley...though they are very similar. Oh and Baking Soda...I am just like you. I love having it all cleaned up when the food comes out, and conversely, I have a hard time cooking when I'm not starting with a clean work area.