Barley has a unique nubby texture and is very filling, so I prefer to serve it with a vegetable side dish rather than a hearty main course. Mushrooms have a natural affinity to barley and lend a distinct flavor, so be sure to include them.

SERVES 4

1 cup barley

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups (6 ounces) quartered mushrooms

1 large onion, minced

Вј teaspoon dried thyme

1в…” cups Vegetable Stock

2 teaspoons tamari or other soy sauce

ВЅ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Rinse the barley in a strainer under cold running water, then put it in a medium saucepan and cover it with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let sit for 1 hour, then drain thoroughly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350В°F. Melt the butter in a medium flameproof baking dish over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, and thyme, and saut for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to brown. Remove from the heat.
  3. Add the drained barley, vegetable stock, soy sauce, salt, and pepper, and toss to mix. Cover the baking dish and bake undisturbed for 1 hour, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Do not stir until just before serving. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until you are ready. May be prepared up to 48 hours in advance and chilled. To reheat, add a few tablespoons of water or stock and place in a 350В°F oven until hot, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: If you do not have a flameproof baking dish, saut the mushrooms, onion, and thyme in a skillet, then spoon them into a buttered baking dish and add the barley, vegetable stock, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. You can make this pilaf on top of the stove in a saucepan, but it inevitably sticks to the bottom of the pan, so I recommend the oven method.