Ah. Real Food. This is what January was meant to be. Not including the peanut M&Ms (which I mistakenly bought a XXL bag of because I was hungry at Costco….never a good thing) the food around here has most definitely taken a turn for the more wholesome. I can’t really promise that this will last long, but while I’m craving healthy food, I might as well take advantage. There is nothing quite like a warm, hearty, filling and yet healthy stew to warm up with on chilly January evening. Or considering the 40-50 degree days we have been having I should probably say, “On a abnormally warm, almost balmy January evening in Ohio”, but it just doesn’t have the same ring. Global warming is seriously ruining seasonal eating.
No matter what the weather, I could probably eat this stew. Well I might be lying slightly. I wouldn’t eat it in the summer. That would be like some kind of sin- hot stew in the summer? But anytime September through April would be fine if you are lucky enough to live in a place like tropical Toledo. (Can you sense my bitterness at winter – and this is even after I got an automatic car starter for Christmas!). But in all seriousness, the first time I made this stew was back in Louisiana, where the humidity never drops below 100% – and it was still good. It’s the kind of stew that feels well balanced because you get vegetables, grain, and protein all in one place. I really love the addition of barley because it makes this stew seem extra hearty and yet also somewhat gourmet.
One caution is that the barley continues to absorb water after cooking. When you go to get leftovers the next day you may find that all the liquid is gone and the barley has doubled in size – but never fear – just add a bit more water, and reheat. If you are trying to make this in advance, or if you’d like to freeze it, I would probably make it without the barley, and then just add the barley when reheating it.
Beef and Barley Stew
- Cooking spray
- 2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 2 ½ cups chopped leaks (about 3 leeks including green stems)
- 2 ½ cups sliced carrot
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cups water
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 – 14 oz cans beef broth
- 1 cup uncooked medium pearled barley
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.
2. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add leek, carrot, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Return beef to pan. Add all ingredients EXCEPT barley and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, or longer if desired. Add barley; cook 30 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Discard bay leaves.
Adapted from Cooking Light