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This versatile side dish offers a smoky, rich accompaniment to almost any meat or fish. Grilled veggies are also fantastic - really with summer coming, anything from the grill is perfect with the barley. It's easy to make, especially if you had bacon with breakfast and were somehow amazingly able to sneak 2 pieces back (difficult to do in my house!).
As barley is available at different stages of processing, I have included directions for all 3. The hulled barley retains its bran and is the least processed, followed by pearled which has lost its bran, and rolled which is the most processed. They are all good for you but if you have access to hulled or pearled, I recommend them over the rolled, tho rolled has the benefit of being faster to cook.
Feel free to get creative and give this dish a completely different feel by subsitituting other ingredients for the bacon and olives - if you do, please let me know about it!
serves 4 to 6
2 cups water
1 cup pearled barley OR 1 cup pearled barley, soaked overnight OR 1 cup rolled barley (the flat kind)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 strips crumbled bacon
7 or 8 chopped Greek black olives
1 tsp dried thyme OR 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Goat milk parmesan-type cheese, or any grating cheese
To cook barley, bring the water, barley, bay leaf, and salt to a boil in a medium pot. Once at a boil, lower the heat to simmer and cover the pot. If using hulled barley, it may take 40 minutes to cook to an al dente feel, tender but chewy. Rolled barley will reach this stage in half that time, 20 minutes. Take out the bay leaf, drain any remaining liquid, and salt to taste.
Stir the olive oil, 2/3 of the bacon, olives, and thyme into the barley.
To serve sprinkle with the bacon, either in a serving dish or divided into individual servings. Grate the cheese over the top and serve right away.