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Barley, leek and asparagus skillet melds delicate flavors well


As summer really kicks in, asparagus is still delicious and abundant. Looking for a way to showcase it? 

Barley is often used in soups or stews. It’s an earthy grain that complements the fresh, grassy taste of this delicate stalk and the natural sweetness of carrots. 

Pearl barley has been polished, or “pearled” to remove some of the inedible hull and part of the bran. Most of the barley found in supermarkets is pearl barley, according to the Whole Grains Council. Quick-cooking pearl barley is a flake that has been partially cooked and dried for quick cooking, similar to instant oatmeal. 

Serve as a main dish or side dish. 

Cooking tips: If desired, substitute hulled barley, which has the outer husk removed, for the pearl barley, but it may take longer to cook. Cook the hulled barley according to package directions until just tender. 

Smaller leeks are more tender than larger leeks, but either can be used in this recipe. To prepare, trim the leaf ends and trim away the root ends. Slice the leek lengthwise and wash thoroughly to remove any dirt that may have become trapped between the layers. Then slice the leeks crosswise. 

Vegetarian tip: Use vegetable broth if a vegetarian dish is desired. Vegetable broth or stock is readily available; the broth is often more amber colored than chicken broth. 

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BARLEY, LEEK AND ASPARAGUS SKILLET 

Makes 6 to 8 side-dish servings or 3 main dish servings (total yield about 5 cups) 

3/4 cup quick-cooking pearl barley 

2 1/4 cups water 

Salt, to taste 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

3 small leeks or 2 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced crosswise, ¼ inch thick 

1 shallot, chopped 

1 medium carrot, chopped 

10 ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups) 

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth or stock 

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice 

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 

Place barley and water in a small saucepan. Season lightly with salt. Heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, 10 to 12 minutes or until just tender. Remove from heat and drain. Set cooked barley aside. 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add leeks, shallot and carrot and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add asparagus and cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes. 

Season vegetables lightly with salt. Stir in broth, lemon juice, pepper and cooked, drained barley. Cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are done as desired. 

Per serving, based on 6: 279 calories (11 percent from fat), 3 g total fat (1 g saturated), no cholesterol, 57 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 25 mg sodium, 12 g dietary fiber.


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