Balsamic, Butternut, and Barley Salad

Sad times lend themselves to warm comfort food, fuzzy blankets, friends, and movies. Regrettably, however, they do not lend themselves to successful blog posting, and I have certainly had some very sad times lately. Even so, it seems that I have finally returned from the land of self-pity enough to update my much neglected blog.

Since my cooking has largely turned towards simple comfort food the past few days I've decided to post an old favorite that I have successfully served to many of my friends on a variety of occasions. It is the perfect blend of sweet, savory, nutty, and acidic to please almost anyone. The one takes about a half hour to an hour of constant watching and tending and messing with three different things simultaneously (which, if you're me, is nearly impossible). Even so, the end result is well worth it and (an added bonus) this is the type of recipe that can be served hot (as a side grain) or cold (as more of a grain salad) and tastes even better after it's sat in the fridge overnight. It also makes a generous amount and so if you want, you could potentially live off of it for the better portion of a week. And so, without further ado, I bring you...

Barley Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Roasted Winter Squash and Red Onions, in a Balsamic Reduction Sauce.

2 cups pearled barley
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups water
3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large red onion cut into 8 chunks and pulled apart a bit
1 tablespoon fresh sage minced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon agave syrup (or 3 tablespoons sugar if you don't have agave)
2 tablespoons sage roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the barley and cook 25 to 30 minutes until done but still a bit chewy (you want the barley to have a bit of structure). After 20 minutes, taste the barley, and continue to do so every 5 minutes until it is done. Meanwhile, combine the squash, onions, olive oil, 1 tablespoon sage, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar in a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. While the barley and squash/onions cook begin the balsamic reduction sauce. Combine the 1 cup balsamic vinegar, agave nectar (or sugar), and 2 tablespoons sage in a small saucepan over medium/low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is reduced by half and has the consistency of maple syrup. Be careful not to reduce by too much or it will become bitter, also, watch out for balsamic fumes as it is cooking, they are quite acrid. After all the components are completed, place the squash mixture, barley, and walnuts in a large bowl and toss to combine. Pour the balsamic sauce over the mixture and toss once more to mix thoroughly. Serve warm or move to the refrigerator and serve cold.
serves 6 to 8 (with pretty generous portions)

M&M Cookies and a new family member

The past few days have been more than a little hectic. It's been a good sort of hectic for the most part however, just not the sort that lends itself to blog posting. On December 31st, I adopted a puppy from the local humane society. She is a two month old Rottweiler mix named Carly (like the children's book "Good Dog Carl" but feminized) and an adorable ball of nonstop puppy energy (as I write this she's attempting to gnaw on the corner of my laptop). Needless to say, the past few days have been spent wrestling, potty training, petting, and attempting to keep Carly from devouring my entire house rather than cooking. Even though this is a food blog, I can't resist showing her off and posting just a few pictures. They're a bit blurry since she is almost always in motion but, they're what I've got for now.

Here Carly is sitting in my friend Rose's lap gnawing on a stuffed bear that is by now pretty gross looking

And now for the cookies. I made these a few days ago for my brother who is down in the Sacramento area playing in a high school basketball tournament (send him good vibes for me please). Although he was happy to be playing basketball, he was not so thrilled about spending half of his Christmas break away from home. In order to cheer him up, I baked a big batch of m&m cookies for him to take along with him (and of course I saved a few for myself).

I used the Nieman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe (leaving out the instant coffee) and used m&m's rather than chocolate chips. I also made the cookies quite a bit smaller than called for in the recipe which decreased the baking time by a bit. Since the recipe is so good, and I did make a few adjustments, I'm posting it here for your baking pleasure. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from the Neiman Marcus recipe found here)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar (light for a milder flavor or dark, as I prefer, for a stronger hint of molasses)

3 tablespoons raw sugar (alternately you could use regular granulated sugar)

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups White Whole Wheat or Whole Wheat pastry flour (alternately you could use all purpose)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips OR m&m's

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy and light in color (approximately 30 seconds). Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed until fully combined. fold in the chocolate chips/m&m's.

Using a tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about 3 inches apart. Bake for about 12 0r 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie. Makes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.


Copyright © 2009 The Quirky Kitchen All rights reserved.
Converted To Blogger Template by Anshul Theme By- WooThemes