The idea for this post came from my mom after she read an article online about the new superfoods, one of which was barley. Next thing you know, she’s reminiscing about something called junk that my grandmother often served around the time my parents were first married (this was my dad’s mom).
After an extensive search through her recipe file – you know, the boxes filled with index cards – my mom finally found Grandma’s recipe for junk, which is basically pearled barley toasted and then baked with sweated sweet onions. The original recipe called for margarine, a popular ingredient in the late 70s, but my mom substituted heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil in the revised recipe.
According to the article from MSN Health, barley is “full of soluble beta-glucan fiber” which can lower bad cholesterol and decrease blood sugar and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Basically, it has lots of dietary fiber and protein.
Looks like Grandma was way ahead of her time, although I can’t quite figure out why she called it junk. Here’s her recipe for the addictive, sweetly nutty, brilliantly textured junk:
1 cup pearled barley
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large sweet yellow onion (Vidalia, Spanish), diced
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the barley and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let it sit for 1 hour or until the barley becomes slightly soft. Drain well.
Preheat the oven to 325F. Set a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the barley, 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix well and cook, stirring often, until the barley is completely dry, about 5 minutes. Remove the barley from the pan and place in a greased baking dish.
Return the pot to the stovetop and pour in the remaining olive oil. Add the onion 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sweat over medium-low heat until softened and slightly translucent, about 10 minutes. Combine the onions with the barley. Cover the baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Fluff and serve.