Three days into 2011 and I'm slowing weeing myself off a holiday diet high in sugar, alcohol and big meals. No cold turkey here, instead I'm eating salads for lunch, stews for dinner and less sugar and alcohol.
Inevitably, the beginning of a new year is a time of reflection and resolution. And while I've done a little of both, I'm not making any hard resolutions this year. I hope to continue to learn, to become even better at the things I like to do like cooking and writing, and I hope amazing things happen. I'm going to continue trying new foods, exploring new restaurants, learning new recipes and eating as locally as possible.
In the kitchen, I intend to pack lunches during the week more often and refresh my pantry. Use up all those beans and grains, jams and fruit that have been in the cupboard far too long and start anew. To start the New Year in the right direction, this recipe for pearl barley and bean stew does a great job at both goals. This stew has been adapted from Heidi's 101 Cookbooks and it's quickly become a favorite of mine.
It's a simple Italian-style stew that's a healthy, feel good meal and feeds a crew. It makes about 10 portions so it's perfect to have for dinner, with lots left over to freeze for lunches. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and thick, whole wheat bread.
Pearl Barley and Bean Stew (serves 10)
1 cup red beans (I use Adzuki Beans from Lifestyles Market)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 potatoes (new, yellow or Yukon gold), peeled and diced
1 1 28 oz or 796 ml can of Italian tomatoes, pureed
1 cup pearled barley (could also use farro or any other pearled grain)
2-3 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 head of savory cabbage, thinly chopped
1/2 bunch kale, de-stemmed and thinly chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
Soak red beans for one or more hours, four hours or overnight is ideal.
Cook the beans in a large pot with lots of water. When the beans are cooked, strain, place in a bowl and mash about half of them so they are chunky yet mashed.
In a separate stock or soup pot, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Once the onions have begun to caramelize, add carrots, potatoes, barley, the can of tomatoes pureed and vegetable broth, and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Be sure the vegetables are cooked through as well.
If you need to stir in more water or broth do so one cup at a time until the stew is the consistency you like. Taste. You are going to need to salt quite a bit. Start with a teaspoon and go from there until the flavors become bright.
Stir in the savoy cabbage and kale, and cook a few minutes more. Serve topped with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil.