Monday, September 13, 2010

Barley and Bowtie Pilaf with Figs, Lemon, and Thyme

I got this recipe in a Yahoo! vegetarian group when I was trying to figure out what to do with the figs I bought.  I ended up eating them all raw ... delish!  I bought some more figs over the weekend and wanted to do something different with them.  I settled on this recipe, mostly because I had nearly everything in my pantry. The recipe was posted by Maureen, but credits Chupa Babi for the original file.   
The recipe started with cooking chopped onion in olive oil until it was golden colored.  Then the pearl barley was added and cooked for two minutes to toast it.  Next the broth was added, the pan was covered, and the barley was simmered for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, the pasta was cooked according to the package directions.  I didn't have bowtie pasta, but I did have mini penne pasta, so I used that.  Once the barley simmered, the figs were added and it was cooked for 5 more minutes.  I must admit, I had to add broth to the barley mixture at least three times.  Once while it was cooking and had 15 minutes left, once when I added the figs, and then again before I added the spices and pasta.  The directions stated to drain the pasta, put it in a bowl, and add the spices to the pasta before adding the barley mixture.  I didn't have fresh spices, so I added the dried spices to the fig mixture in hopes that the flavors would meld better.  I used frozen lemon zest.  I have lemon, lime, and orange zest in my freezer in little prescription containers so I always have some on hand.

This is a sweet pasta dish.  I thought it might be a little savory due to the thyme, but it's really not.  It's not overly sweet, just has a hint of sweetness.  It's a fresh, new taste for me.  I love the figs in the dish.  I think I needed to add more water to the barley and let it cook a little longer than it did as it's not as tender as I would like it, but overall, it's good.  
For those of you who would like to try the recipe, I've listed it below with my changes in parenthesis.  I did not use nuts, although I had some almonds.  I didn't feel like toasting them.  I can see where almonds would add a wonderful element to this dish.  I'll have leftovers.  I think I'll toast some almonds to sprinkle on the leftovers when I have them.

Barley and Bow Tie Pilaf with Figs, Lemon, and Thyme

2 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. chopped yellow onion
1/2 c. pearl barley
1¼ to 1½ c. broth (I used at least 2 c., maybe more of veggie broth)
8 oz. bow tie pasta (I used mini penne pasta)
1 c. figs, stemmed and halved or quartered
½ c. chopped, toasted almonds, walnuts, or pecans (optional)
3 T. chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 t. dried thyme leaves (I used ½ t. ground thyme)
1½ t. finely grated lemon zest (I used frozen)
salt, to taste (optional ... I didn't use any salt)

Heat half of the olive oil and saute onion until golden; add barley and saute 2 more minutes.  Add broth (I added 1½ cups to start); cover and simmer for 35 minutes.  Add figs and cook for an additional 5 minutes adding more broth if necessary.

While barley is simmering, cook pasta.  Drain, put in a bowl, toss with rest of olive oil.  Stir in barley, and spices.  Serve warm.  Variations include adding ½ c. browned TVP or tofu chunks.

It's a nice alternative to regular pasta.  Although I won't have this as one of my regular dishes, I think it's good for an annual fig, barley, and pasta pilaf.

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