Posts Tagged ‘summer’

It’s super cold and snowy here and I’ve really been wanting to get a blog post done. I honestly wrote some of this post a few weeks ago, but then I had some health issues that prevented me from finishing it at the time. I won’t go into detail, but 2021 has not been my favorite year. Here’s hoping that 2022 is much better!

We recently had the opportunity to see Alton’s live show, which was super fun. We had previously seen him two other times and both times we were pleasantly surprised by the hilarity of the live shows; that’s not to say that Alton hasn’t been funny on Good Eats, but just that the humor in his live shows has been kicked up a couple notches. I was curious to see how this show would compare to his others, especially since he has publicly stated that this will be his last touring show; I would highly recommend that you catch his show if you so happen to have the chance.

After completing the recipes from this episode, I think it was safe to say that we met our dietary fiber recommendations for that week, as I cranked out all five recipes from Alton’s barley episode in the same week. I enjoy the episodes, such as this one, in which Alton truly demonstrates a multitude of uses for a particular ingredient. And, to make it more fun, barley is an ingredient that I do not regularly utilize.

Baked Barley

This recipe is sort of the stepping stone of the episode, as it is a basic recipe for baked barley that could then be used in myriad ways. Ideally, you will want to use hulled barley for this recipe, but I had to settle for pearled barley. What is the difference? Well, pearled barley has been polished to remove both its husk and bran layers, while hulled barley has only had the outermost husk removed. Hulled barley is more nutritious and takes longer to cook. Still, this recipe seemed to work just fine for the pearled barley I used.

To make baked barley, put 1 C barley in a 1.5 quart lidded casserole dish, along with 1 t Kosher salt, 1 T butter, and 2 C of boiling water. Stir, cover the dish tightly with foil, and place the lid on top of the foil. Bake the barley at 375 for an hour.

Immediately upon removing the barley from the oven, remove the lid/foil and gently fluff the barley with chopsticks or a large fork.

Barley before and after fluffing.

You can serve the barley immediately or you can refrigerate it for later use. Or, you can use it to make a…

Barley Salad

For this salad, you’ll need to prepare a batch of Alton’s baked barley, as written above. To make the dressing, whisk 2 T extra virgin olive oil with 3 T fresh orange juice.

Add a batch of Alton’s baked barley (cooked and cooled), a julienned head of fennel, 1/4 C of toasted pine nuts, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, 1/2 C cooked/crumbled bacon, 2 T chopped parsley, and Kosher salt/black pepper (to taste).

Alton’s barley salad.

We enjoyed this salad, though the orange juice was almost unidentifiable. I found that adding additional orange juice really jazzed this salad up a few notches. I also found it necessary to add quite a lot of Kosher salt. I would certainly make this again, especially as a dinner side or a lunch salad.

Barley and Lamb Stew

Where we live, at least, it is certainly stew weather. I view lamb as a very polarizing ingredient, as people seem to either love or despise lamb, with very little in between. I happen to greatly enjoy lamb, so this stew was enticing from the get-go. This recipe begins with trimming/cubing 2 pounds of lamb shoulder. Add pinches of Kosher salt and pepper to the lamb cubes, along with 1 T flour. Toss the lamb to thoroughly coat in the flour.

Cubed lamb shoulder tossed with Kosher salt, pepper, and flour.

Heat a 4-5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, adding 1/2 T olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add ~ a third of the meat, browning on all sides. Remove the meat as it browns, and brown the remaining meat in two batches.

When all of the meat has browned and been removed from the pan, add more oil (if needed), 3 sliced carrots, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Cook the carrots until they have some color.

Carrots and Kosher salt added to pot to cook until golden.

Add the lamb back to the pan, along with 1 C of barley grits (we ground barley to a grit-like consistency), and a quart of chicken broth or stock. Bring the stew to a boil, add a cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the lamb falls apart.

Serve the stew with fresh oregano.

Alton’s barley and lamb stew.

This lamb stew was good, but not Earth-shattering. I would call this stew simple but tasty. I would recommend serving this stew the day it is made, as it becomes overly thick/congealed when refrigerated and reheated. We ate this stew with a side of…

Barley Bread

When making Alton’s barley bread, you will need 10 ounces of barley flour; you can either purchase this ingredient or you can mill the flour yourself from 10.5 oz of barley. Either way, place the flour in a bowl with 2.5 T baking powder and 1 t Kosher salt, whisking to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 2 T honey. Add 1/4 C canola/vegetable oil and 1 C milk.

Once the wet ingredients are combined, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring to combine; since barley is low in gluten, you can thoroughly stir this dough without making it tough.

Pour the dough into a lubed Dutch oven and cook it for 35-40 minutes, uncovered, over a gas grill that has been preheated on low for 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, which is what I did. Regardless of cooking method, seek an internal temperature of 190 degrees.

Cutting the barley bread.
A slice of barley bread, served here alongside Oktoberfest soup.

We enjoyed this bread, which was slightly sweet and nutty. The crumb is very crumbly, so don’t expect a bread that holds together tightly when sliced. I also found that this loaf stuck to my Dutch oven, so I used a dinner knife multiple times to free the edges of the loaf from the pan. I then used Alton’s tip of placing a paper plate on top of the loaf before inverting the loaf onto the plate. Eventually, this worked, though I did have some cracking and breaking at the edges of the loaf. I find this to be a good weekday bread to pair with soup; we ate it alongside an Oktoberfest-style soup.

Barley Water

The final recipe of this episode is one I immediately recognized as being included in Alton’s “EveryDayCook” cookbook. I figured then that this must be an Alton favorite. Barley water, by the way, is a beverage that is traditionally served at Wimbledon. To make it, heat 1 C hulled barley in 2 quarts water over high heat until boiling. Decrease the heat and simmer the barley for 30 minutes.

While the barley simmers, use a vegetable peeler to zest two lemons into a pitcher, also adding their juice. Stir in 1/4 C honey.

Strain the liquid from the cooked barley into the pitcher, stirring to combine. Refrigerate the barley water until it is sufficiently chilled before serving.

Barley water after straining liquid into the pitcher.
A glass of chilled barley water.

Although we were not enjoying this beverage in the midst of warm weather, I can still say that it is very refreshing. The predominant flavor in this drink is lemon, and particularly the slightly bitter flavor of lemon zest. I would maybe consider decreasing the amount of lemon zest here with hopes of less bitterness. Since I have never consumed any other barley water I cannot say whether this level of bitterness is typical; perhaps it also depends somewhat on the actual lemons you use? That said, I legitimately liked Alton’s barley water and I plan to make it again when the season again turns to warmth.

Seeing as it is currently 12 degrees outside here, it really isn’t peak melon season. I take the episodes in the order they come, though, so we enjoyed a couple melon recipes in February. Although the melon was not of the greatest quality, these recipes still managed to give us a little taste of summer.

Hot Melon Salad

I have wanted to make this melon salad¬†since I watched this episode with my dad when it originally aired in 2005. I remember that it just sounded so good to me when I first watched this episode. Alton prefers to use a high-powered outdoor gas burner for his wok, which is a setup my dad adopted after watching¬†Good Eats. I do have my dad’s outdoor burner, but it needs a new hose, so I used our flat-bottomed wok on our regular old stove. Whether you are cooking indoors or out, heat your wok on a hot burner until water droplets instantly turn to steam upon hitting the pan. As with any stir fry, be sure to have all of your ingredients ready ahead of time, as the cooking goes very quickly. The ingredients for this dish are 1 1/2 T olive oil, a thinly sliced red onion, 8 ounces of cubed honeydew melon, 8 ounces of cubed cantaloupe, 1 T basil chiffonade, Kosher salt, black pepper, 2 t red wine vinegar, 2 ounces feta cheese, and 1 T toasted pine nuts.

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Ingredients for salad: red onion, basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. Not pictured: melon.

Speaking of cantaloupe, did you know that all of the cantaloupes in this country are really muskmelons? Anyway, once the wok is hot, add the oil to the pan and swirl to coat.

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Oil in hot wok.

Add the sliced red onion and toss until heated through.

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Onion added to hot wok.

Next, add the cubed melon and toss again, cooking until the corners of the melon just start to brown slightly. Add the tablespoon of basil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt and some black pepper.

Drizzle the vinegar into the pan and transfer the salad to a serving dish. Finish the salad by sprinkling on the feta and pine nuts.

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Alton’s hot melon salad.

We had this as a side dish one night and we ate the entire salad. I really like the flavors in this salad and how they compliment each other. The melon becomes sweeter from the heat, yet the red wine vinegar gives just a light touch of acidity. The feta adds some much-needed salt, while the red onion gives some pungency. The crunch of the pine nuts is a nice addition to a salad that is otherwise composed of ingredients with fairly similar textures. To me, this dish would be a perfect summer grilling side dish, and I intend to make it again, just as soon as deck season arrives.

Melon Sorbet

A fresh melon sorbet is the second recipe in this episode, and it is super easy to throw together.

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Sorbet ingredients: watermelon, lemon juice, vodka, and sugar.

Puree a pound plus five ounces of watermelon in a food processor.

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Pureed watermelon.

To the pureed melon, add 3 T fresh lemon juice, 2 T vodka, and 9 ounces of sugar. The vodka serves to lower the freezing point of the sorbet, making the texture softer and less icy.

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Lemon juice, vodka, and sugar added to watermelon puree.

Refrigerate the melon mixture for at least two hours before churning in an ice cream maker.

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Churning sorbet after chilling.

Once churned, transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 3-4 hours before eating.

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Watermelon sorbet.

The amounts of watermelon flavor and aroma in this sorbet are amazing, especially considering that I could not get great fruit. The color of the sorbet also seemed more vibrant than the color of the melon itself. As for texture, this sorbet stayed pretty soft and scoopable, and had very few large ice crystals. This sorbet truly is a taste of summer. It is quite sweet, so I have to wonder if a slight decrease in sugar could make this even better, though I suppose that could also alter the final texture of the sorbet. Perhaps I will just have to make two batches of sorbet once melon is in season – one with the original sugar concentration and one with a slightly lower concentration. I also intend to try this with some other types of melon, though I would imagine the sugar would have to be adjusted accordingly for the sugar contents of different melons. This sorbet is super refreshing, easy, and can brighten up even the coldest of winter days.