If you don’t keep Barley in your pantry, I think is the time to start. Never thought of eating barely outside of the occasional Campbell’s Beef and Barely soup? What better to eat with a beer than the main grain in beer. It’s time to expand your horizon. Just let us monkey’s help you to a more diverse gastronomical experience.
The major problem is that most grocery stores I come across only have pearled barely. Pearled Barley is the white rice of Barley. Bland, tasteless, and sad (not to mention far less nutritious). You need to look for hulled barley, which simply has the hulls taken off. One more step than the barley that goes to your local malster to become the malted barley that a brewer uses. To find Hulled Barley I ended up at Whole Foods. Usually Whole Foods is on the expensive side, but if you head to the bulk section you’ll find all sorts of grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, and dried fruit in more variety and at a cheaper prices than at the grocery store.
Since it was such a nice day, I decided on a Barely and Fennel Salad which I got from Good Eats. I haven’t had a lot of fennel but it is tasty. It is incredibly aromatic and sweeter than your run of the mill onion. More like a Vidalia onion than your traditional hot white onion, with a more floral smell. I added Parsley which has I think has a pungent minty taste to it. Obviously not as minty as a mint leaf and not as sharp as something like cilantro. It is more like a memory of mint, with some other herbal notes thrown in. I threw in some toasted pine nuts and some crispy bacon. I have never toasted pine nuts before. I failed two times by burning them before I got it right. Kind of a shame really since pine nuts are so damn expensive. I finished it off with a dressing I made from fresh squeezed orange juice and extra virgin olive oil.
I paired it with one of my last Guinness Stouts I had from St. Patty’s Day. I thought, Barley Stew goes go perfectly with a stout and is often made with it, why not Barley Salad? Of course a salad with fennel and citrus is a bit different from the earthy flavors that go into a stew. Don’t get me wrong. With the hulled barely, toasted pine nuts, and the bacon it had plenty of toast and earthiness to match up with the roasty toasty flavors of the stout.
One thing you might not know about Guinness is that they sour 3% of their beer and then mix it in to the rest of the batch. 3% isn’t enough to make you go, this is a sour beer like an Oud Bruind or an unflavored Lambic. It is just enough to say “Hmm, there are some nice layers to this beer. I can’t put my foot on what makes it like this, but I like it.” It is just like the Barley Salad. There are 3 tablespoons (3 tablespoons and 3%, coincidence?) of orange juice in the dressing which is not enough to make me think of it as a citric dish, but enough to give is a little extra complexity. The beer also does a nice job of cutting right through the aromatic Fennel and any bits of parsley you might get.