Monday, March 19, 2012

Barley Risotto

This winter was short, very short.  And although it feels as if it is summer outside already, I haven't eaten enough warm comfort food.  Plus, with Passover quickly approaching, I have to get rid of a lot of open packages of hamatz that are in my pantry.  I have a half of a bag of barley staring at me everytime I open my cabinet.  And for those of you who work with barley, you know that a little goes a long way once cooked.  For those of you who do not eat a lot of barley, you should start.  It is a very healthy whole grain that is high in fiber and a great change from rice or pasta.

Here is my favorite recipe for a barley risotto.  It has a smiliar creamy, starchy, comfort texture that rice risotto has, but much easy - no constant stirring.  You can really play with the recipe and use whatever vegetable you have on hand.  This recipe is parve, but you can add cheese, or make it with chicken broth, depending on the meal you are serving it with.  It works great as a warm side dish, but I also stir in some extra veggies, top it with some hot sauce and call it a meal.

So as you are trying to eat from your pantry in preperation for Passover, try out this recipe!

3/4 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
1 onion
1 teaspoon oil
2 cloves of garlic (diced small)
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 1/2 lb of cubed butternut squash
salt/peper to taste

Turn oven on to 400 degrees.  While pre-heating, sautee onion in the oil and a dash of salt in an oven-proff large saucepan or dutch oven for about 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and butternut squash, cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the barley and stir, let cook another minute together.  Finally add the broth and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot.  Transfer to the oven and let cook for about 30 minutes.  After about 30 minutes, most of the liquid should be absorbed.  Take out of the oven, keep covered and allow the remainder of the liquid to absorb and cool down a little before serving.  Salt and pepper to taste.

This amount will feed 6-8 as a side dish. 

One great option is to stir in spinach, kale, or other leafy greens at the end.  The heat will wilt the veggies and will add beautiful color to the dish.  If you like heat, this is great with hot sauce. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hamentashen and Mishloach Manot for Purim

Purim is, hands down, one of the most fun holidays.  We dress up, have a festive meal, have a drink or two, and give and get gifts from our friends.

When I was younger, Purim was all about the carnival for me. But now, my favorite part is the Mishloach Manot, packages of food gifted to friends and family.  Giving mishloach manot on Purim is one of the 4 mitzvot for the holiday.  The other 3 are: to hear the Book of Esther read; give Matanot La'evyonim, gifts to the poor; and to have a Sudah, a festive meal.

To fulfill the mitzvah of Mishloach Manot, one must include at least 2 ready to eat foods and give them to at least one person.  The most common food to include is hamentashen!  Below is a traditional recipe for this delicious, tri-cornered cookie.

4 C flour  + more for rolling
1 C sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 sticks of butter (or margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
orange zest (optional)

Mix together all dry ingredients in large bowl
Add butter, eggs and vanilla to dry ingredients, mix well.  Dough will be sticky.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.  Working with no more than 1/4th of the dough at a time, roll out dough on a floured surface till about 1/8 inch thick.  Cut 3-inch circles out.
Fill each circle with 1 teaspoon of filling of your choice (apricot, prune, poppy, chocolate, etc) and fold into a triangle, pinching corners together.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
I got about 60 Hamentashen out of this recipe.  Amounts will vary due to thickness and cookie-cutter size.

This year, I made blueberry Hamentashen.  However, with my last batch I had some fun.  Instead of adding some extra flour to reduce the dough sticky-ness as I worked with it, I added graham cracker crumbs and filled the hamentashen with chocolate spread and marshmallow fluff making a S'more Hamentashen.  Delicious!

After my cookies cooled, I started to assemble my Mishloach Manot packages.  I themed my packages "coffee".  Ironically, I did not include any coffee in the package.  I bought coffee mugs and filled them with hot chocolate mix, tea bags, biscotti and hamentashen.  Below is a picture of the final product.