I just love spinach! Its flavor is so mild and versatile, so it can blend well with so many other ingredients! Today I will share an exquisite recipe that helps you benefit from this extremely nutritious vegetable! AND the main star here is barely another awesome grain that is often overlooked and you can add delicious pesto! This can be an amazing side dish, an occasion starter, or the main course! A very versatile recipe and as always, one for the wannabe healthy club! All while you benefit from an uncommonly eaten grain or one more known to be eaten in some kind of soup. (Do remember that barley is a cereal just like rice and pasta, do focus on more veggies than cereal, especially if you’re on a low-carb diet! Barley is higher in carbs and calories than pasta, however, it is extremely rich in fibers, plenty of protein, magnesium, iron, and has some vitamins too! Worth the calories every once in a while, especially if served with a low-calory sauce.)
- Mixed Herbs (Your favorite mix)
- Onions/Spring onions/Chives (optional)
- White Wine
- Coriander (optional but it helps digest the vegetables)
- Cheeslet or Pesto
- Pine Nuts
I start by washing and boiling the barley slowly, so it has enough time to soften while I cook the rest of the ingredients. Then I place the herbs, garlic, and if I’m using spring onions, chives, or onions in the pan and start to grill until they start to change color. In this particular serving, I used basil and mint (usually they are the main flavoring here since I am aiming for a pesto-like flavor so they need to be the main portion of the herb mix), parsley, marjoram, oregano, tarragon (gives a nice nutty flavor), rosemary, and thyme, (the rest of the herbs add according to your taste), I also used onion powder, dried chives, and fresh spring onions along with the garlic. I also added coriander, it’s a mild flavor but helps to digest the vegetables, it has a sweet, pleasant taste but more often than not, I add it to my vegetable dishes for its benefits more than the flavor.
Now it’s time for the mushrooms. Feel free to chop them in your favorite style, but my favorite is chopping the stems off and slicing them into lovely, perfect mushroom slices! (No! I do not throw the stems away! I dice them and add them at the end of the recipe to add to that mushroomy taste. Remember that since they are small they will cook really fast, so they do not need more than two or three minutes of cooking time, so toss them in with the barley). Cook until the mushrooms start to change color, add a little white wine, and cook until the wine evaporates. (Some people enjoy raw mushrooms if you like the mushrooms to be less cooked then add the wine as soon as the mushrooms start to soften.) Now add the spinach and cook until the water starts to dry out. (If you want to use fresh spinach, not frozen ones like I have, boil them in advance.) You may want to add few drops of sesame oil, however, if you are watching your weight I suggest you skip it, it’s totally good without the oil. Add about a glass of wine and toss in the almost cooked barley (and the stems of the mushrooms if you followed my method). Stir until the wine will start to reduce again.
Now the salt and pepper of this recipe come from either the cheeslet or the pesto. If you are using pesto add a spoon or two with the last glass of wine. You do not need much, usually, pesto has a very strong taste and blends in nicely to give a lovely Italian taste to your recipe. If you are adding cheeslet, add it once you switch off the heat and stir one final time to blend it in. Half a cheeslet per portion is my recommended measurement as it too has a very strong taste. If cheeslet is unavailable to you, you can use pecorino or parmigiana cheese and add black pepper, however, cheeslet is rumored to have the least amount of fat.
Now let it sit for a couple of minutes, (at least I like it more not piping hot, but again, it’s up to taste. I usually let it sit in the pan for a minute or two. Since I have an electric hob it keeps it warm but the flavors blend better.), plate and add some roasted pine nuts on top. Dig in! Dinner is served!
You can add chicken to this plate. Grilled stripes of chicken will fit in perfectly especially with the pesto variation! If you are a fish lover and a tiny winy more adventures try salmon. Yes, I just adore salmon and pesto! They blend perfectly well together, especially if you grill the salmon with your favorite milk! However, it is a lovely option if you want to avoid meat for a while, the nuts and cheese will replace the protein and fats for you (of course, not on a daily basis, I strongly recommend a variety of food intake unless you are vegan or vegetarian, but then you would know what to do to replace meats with beans and other proteins and meat substitutes and hopefully still having a healthy and varied diet.). As for the herbs, add and reduce according to taste, you may want to add your favorite ones at the end for more flavor, while more pepper or some chilies can turn up the heat in this dish if you enjoy spicy food especially with the cheeslet version! You are the chef here after all!