Barley with Butternut Squash, Apples, and Onions



With an extended Indian Summer season this year, it is hard to believe that we are well into the last half of October. But the leaves–more brilliant than even the beautiful normal here in the upper Midwest this year–are quickly showering down, glowing in the sun, making colorful confetti against the clouds of the drearier days.  
I brought home almost ten pounds of Concord grapes from a trip to Wisconsin, so a batch of grape syrup is right now simmering on the stove. That is a new experiment for me, so I won’t be putting the results on this blog until I know that I have something that will work. Meanwhile, another quart of raspberries is in the refrigerator, to be made into a raspberry apple crisp for guests later this week. Sheltered as I am here in town, killing frost has still not hit the everbearing raspberries, but I know that each picking could be the last of the season.
Meanwhile, a visit to Sekapps, my favorite orchard right here in the city, is bursting with other fruits of fall. Beyond the piles of pumpkins and rows of mums, there were bins with dozens of varieties of squash, bags of as many kinds of apples, bushel baskets of fat burgundy beets, and a grocery cart full of the largest imaginable cabbages. I brought two of these home for a total of just $5 and found they each weighed almost 15 pounds. Even at that size, the flavor is sweet, and a giant recipe of Overnight Coleslaw used only a third of one head. There will be more cabbage recipes here soon too!
Along with the cabbages, I came home with a bushel of squash, another of apples, a 50 pound bag of red potatoes, and a fat pie pumpkin that will be decor now, dessert later. With all of this bounty, it was time to get busy in the kitchen. 
Squash. Onions. Apples. This trio of flavors may seem a little unusual for many of us here in the US, but it is a great triumvirate, and today’s cool cloudiness was just the weather for some nice warm comfort food. While I often make curried vegetables with squash, today I wanted to just focus on the basic flavors of these key ingredients. Searching the web, I found an idea to combine them with barley, and a little tweaking ended up with a great vegan main dish that would also be good as a side with a  kielbasa or other smoked sausage. 
Maybe just the right kind of dish for the family that has both meat eaters and vegetarians. If you are trying to introduce new grains like barley into your menus, this combination could be a good place to start. It is inexpensive, and, by using pearled barley, the entire dish can be made, start to finish, in barely half an hour.
Barley with Butternut Squash, Apples and Onions 

1/2 c pearl barley
1 1/2 c water
1/2 t salt
1 T olive oil
2 c butternut squash, peeled and cut into about 1 inch cubes (9 ounces)
1 c onion, diced (1 medium onion, about 5 ounces)
1 1/3 c coarsely chopped apple (1 large apple, about 7 ounces)
1/3 c water drained from barley
2 to 3 minced cloves garlic, to taste
1 to 2 t chicken broth powder, to taste (OR 2 chicken or vegetarian bouillon cubes)
1/2 t dried thyme
freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.  Combine barley, water, and salt in a small saucepan; cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until barley is just tender about 30 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, squash, and onion in a heavy skillet–I prefer cast iron. Saute over medium high heat until the vegetables are golden brown and the squash is just barely tender. Stir frequently to avoid sticking and to be sure that the onions and squash cook evenly.

3.  Stir in the apple, garlic, thyme, broth powder or bouillon, and liquid drained from barley. (If the barley has absorbed all the water, just add a small amount of water to the vegetable mix.) Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the apples are just tender.
4.  Stir in the barley and mix well.

Serves two to three as a main dish or four as a side.


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