When I was 12 years old, I decided to become a vegetarian. I have never really enjyoed eating meat, so I didn't feel like I was missing out. When I went away to college in North Carolina, the vegetarian options were slim to none, so I ate whatever I could find, which included bringing meat back into my diet.
For the past few years, cooking in my own kitchen, I have been an omnivore. Primarily because it's just easier than cooking two separate meals for my husband and I. There are also so many delicious recipes that I wanted to make that just don't translate as well to vegetarianism, and when cooked well, I do enjoy meat. However, in the past year I've read more and more about the benefits of eating mostly or all vegetarian meals, and many of the reasons I became vegetarian in the first place have resurfaced. You might have noticed that many of my recipes have been vegetarian entrees, or meals like this. When I make a heartier vegetable/starch combo dish, I can simply add a different protein to JJ's bowl and to mine. I made JJ a chicken sausage, and I stirred cannelini beans into my dish at the end.
This recipe caught my eye because it looked similar to a risotto, but is made with barley, which I love. It also is packed with nutrients and flavor, but is simple and each ingredient shines through.
Creamy Barley with Tomato and Greens
adapted from Real Simple, February 2010
1 tbsp olive oil1 large onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup pearled barley
2 cups vegetable stock
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 8 oz. bag frozen spinach or 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, thawed and drained
1/4 cup feta cheese
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of oregano
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the barley, tomatoes, wine, and stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 18-20 minutes.
Add the spinach, crushed red pepper and oregano.
Stir well, taste and asjust seasonings.
Divide among bowls and sprinkle with the feta.