Perfect for a Potluck: Barley, Corn, and Provolone Bake

Maybe it’s a Vermont thing, but I find several times a year we’re invited to a potluck supper. Everyone brings a dish to share, be it appetizers, casseroles, or desserts and I always love these, since I like to take a little taste of everything. A couple of weeks ago I was lamenting what to take to a potluck supper. I admit, sometimes cooking for a crowd has lost its appeal of late; so many people have food allergies, it sort of takes the winds out of my sails when I am deciding what to make. This time, I decided to make a homey casserole that I brought warm. And it was perfect—and I went home with an empty dish! Please note, this is barley, so it contains gluten and cheese, but it was the perfect dish to warm you up before an evening of dancing. And this would be a great weeknight dish to put together; just cook the barley in the morning when you’re fixing breakfast and lunch! My only switch was I used a cup of frozen corn. This was delicious and I plan on making again for dinner for two!

barleyBarley, Corn, and Provolone Bake
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2000 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup).

3 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt — divided
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onion
1 cup corn kernels — fresh (about 2 ears)
1 cup diced red bell pepper — (about 1 large)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup provolone cheese — or fontina, or part-skim mozzarella (3 ounces)
Cooking spray

1. Combine water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Add barley. Return to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and corn; saute 6 minutes. Add bell pepper; saute 3 minutes. Stir in cooked barley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, parsley, thyme, and black pepper. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray; cover with lid. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake an additional 5 minutes.

england's flagMVK Eats London, Part Deux
(To read Part One, click here.)

A month or so before we left on our trip, our friend, Jen, asked me what I thought about a sunrise breakfast at the tallest building in London. Yes please! So at the ungodly hour of 5:30 Monday morning, we got up for 6:30 breakfast reservations at the Duck and Waffle restaurant atop the Heron Building. As we took the glass elevator to the tippy top of London, we all looked at each other with sleepy eyes and said, “this better be worth it.” And it exceeded all of our expectations! I thought the restaurant would be full, but we were just one of three tables. (As an aside, at the table next to us were seated two players from the Dallas Cowboys, who played an exhibition game in London the night before. And they won, too! Thanks for the mimosas, guys!) Seated in a rounded booth that overlooked the city, we were able to watch the sky grow light and every five minutes or so, everything came into view, so we kept getting up and taking more pictures. London Bridge, the Gherkin building, everything grew more and more beautiful as the sun came up. Oh, and breakfast was delicious! I got an egg scramble with avocado which was really yummy, Jen got the Duck and Waffle (when in London!), and the Eater of the House got the traditional English breakfast. Two pots of tea, our stomachs full, we headed out for a very long day of walking and sightseeing. (As an aside, Jen cooked up blood sausage [or blood pudding, as it is sometimes called, which is definitely not pudding!] she brought back from Scotland for my first British breakfast! Don’t think about the name and don’t look up what it is, but if you ever have the opportunity to try it, I found it delicious! And was thrilled when I found some in my local meat market when I got home, although I didn’t find it as good as the “real” thing.)

 

The view from atop London.

The view from atop London.

For those of you who are book lovers, I just had to share this with you. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is one of my favorite books of all time. For decades, Hanff corresponded with this small London bookshop, buying books from them. It is a lovely story, and one that I discovered while in London is truly American. While I knew the shop was no longer there, I knew there was a plaque somewhere on a building. We walked up and down Charing Cross Road several times and for the life of me I couldn’t find number 84. I went into 82, they didn’t know. I went into a bookshop, the clerk didn’t know. I went into another bookshop and the clerk said, “yes, it’s there.” But where? “It’s there,” was all he said. So I said I’ll walk up the street one more time and after that I give up. I expected the plaque to be eye-level, but when I looked up, there it was. My Holy Grail. I’ll admit I got very weepy when I found it; I’ll just blame it on jet lag and the early morning rise, but I tend to get emotional over sentimental things. So the photo of me in front of it has me with a red face and teary eyes. Oh well.

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This statue outside the National Gallery was in honor of the World War I soldiers.

This statue outside the National Gallery was in honor of the World War I soldiers.

Like I said, Monday was a BUSY day! We walked to the Tower of London to see the poppies dedicated for World War I, the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, then we walked down to Parliament, past Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, and down to the St. Ermin’s Hotel, because I had a date with Jen for high tea! We selected this hotel because they have their own bees and make honey, but we didn’t see any bees–or did we have any honey! Finger sandwiches and lots of sweets and delicious tea. It was a wonderful way to loll away an afternoon. But we couldn’t stay too late, we had a date with best-selling author David Mitchell! After the reading and having our books signed, we went out for tapas in SoHo, this time Peruvian, but I was so tired and hungry I didn’t take any pictures, but trust me, it was an amazing meal.

Look at the cute shelf they use for our sandwiches and goodies!

Look at the cute shelf they used for our sandwiches and sweet treats! And I loved that my china was in my favorite color–pink!

Off to Cambridge for an overnighter! Just a quick 40-minute train ride, and you are off in another land of academia and tiny bookshops. It was lovely and the architecture was incredible. We had lunch in The Eagle Pub, where in 1953 Francis Crick announced that he and James Watson discovered DNA! No announcements that day, although I’d like to announce I had a great plate of fish and chips! I also discovered a food treat at our B & B that I’ve been making since we got home, bircher muesli. Basically, yogurt with muesli or oatmeal and apples, stir, and then everything is nice and soft when you go and eat it. It’s delicious!

 

Cambridge.

Cambridge University.

Our goodbye dinner was at Simpsons On the Strand. I had wavered back and forth if this was a good decision, but we all agreed it was as we left the restaurant. My parents had eaten there more than 30 years ago and had told me what a special time they had, so I wanted to replicate the evening. And we did. My other BFF from Switzerland “popped” over for a quick weekend, so her joining us made the evening extra special. Simpsons is a London landmark, and if you order the beef, they will bring the huge roast to your table and carve it for you right there. Beware all vegetarians of the below photo! I like my beef rare, and this was cooked perfectly and just the right portion, too. Thinly sliced with freshly grated horseradish, I was in heaven. It was a lovely way to end an incredible week in London.

simpsons2

simpsons1

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A quick girls only walk in the morning before we headed to the train station to go back to Heathrow. We did so much during these days and I only touched the surface with my stories! Tea in Hyde Park! Tea at Fortum and Mason! A stroll through Selfridges department store’s amazing food court! How my Munich-made, via Zurich, via London white sausages were confiscated at customs! (But I was able to keep the cheese!) And so many delicious meals! But alas our fabulous journey had to come to an end and we had to go back to reality.

And this was MY reality Monday morning!

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Tis the Season for Light Eating: Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon and Ginger

Good Wednesday morning! How did you fare over the holiday? Were you hit by the snowstorm? It arrived for us mid-day Wednesday, but cleared out by Thursday morning. For the first time in many years, I think I can say my big dinner went off without a hitch—and I didn’t even draw up a timeline! Granted, the turkey was done about 45 minutes than I planned and I left the rolls in too long, but everything was delicious with leftovers kept at a minimum. And I’ve boiled up the turkey carcass for some soup later on this winter!

So now that our bellies are filled to the rim and it’s December, which means lots of sweets and out of the ordinary eating, I try as much as I can to have light meals throughout the day. Sugar and sweets are terrible for my waistline as well as my psyche, so I try to make healthy and delicious meals that aren’t fussy. This soup, which I made for lunches, was perfect. With accents of lemon and ginger, to me, this was a souped up (pardon the pun!) version of miso soup you get in Japanese restaurants.  While it is light yet filling, you don’t go away feeling like you ate a heavy meal.

For substitutions, I poached a chicken breast instead of using the rotisserie chicken and I cooked up the brown rice instead of the instant and made a pilaf of the leftovers. But their suggestions are excellent quick replacements if time is lacking. This was so delicious, it has become my new favorite soup! And for those gluten-intolerant, just use tamari instead of soy sauce!

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Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon and Ginger

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon white miso
1 (8-ounce) package presliced cremini mushrooms
4 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 1/2 cups shredded skinless rotisserie chicken breast
3 cups chopped bok choy
1 (8.5-ounce) pouch precooked brown rice
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger, and miso; sauté 4 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté 2 minutes. Add stock, chicken, and bok choy; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes.

While soup simmers, prepare rice according to package directions. Stir rice, soy sauce, salt, and pepper into soup; cook 4 minutes or until bok choy is tender. Remove from heat; stir in lemon rind and juice.

england's flagMVK Eats London!

Hopefully no one noticed I was gone for a few weeks as The Eater of the House and I took the trip of a lifetime to London! Our good friends, Jen and Bill, had given an open invitation to visit them for two years and we finally took them up on their offer! November is always dark, overcast, and cold in Vermont, so it was a great time to travel, plus the weather was perfect, upper 50s, and I definitely didn’t need the winter coat I chose to bring!

Look at those doughnuts! Despite all my walking, I resisted!

Look at those doughnuts! Despite all my walking, I resisted!

London is a city for walkers, so you don’t need to worry about calories and how much you’re eating, as I averaged about ten miles every day! Our first real walk took us to Portobello Road and Notting Hill, where we walked along, checking out the stands and looking at all the food. Vegetables, bread, jams, doughnuts, you name it, they had it!

Gorgeous vegetables.

Gorgeous vegetables. I wish I could have taken some of those parsnips home with me!

All that walking made us hungry and instead of choosing to wait close to an hour at an Italian restaurant we selected, we instead walked across the street to the Spanish tapas restaurant Galicia. At first, we weren’t sure if they were open, the lights in the upstairs dining room were off and there was only a smattering of men at the downstairs bar. But they took us up, turned on the lights, and we had the most incredible lunch I think I’ve ever eaten. We selected nine dishes to share, and there almost wasn’t enough room on the table for the food and our plates. Mussels, sausages, jambon, meatballs, octopus, chicken, shrimp, avocado, everything was cooked to perfection and was so delicious with no room for dessert. Before lunch, Jen took me to the bookstore, Books for Cooks, which was an entire bookstore devoted to cookbooks and books about cooking! My kind of heaven!

Tapas lunch!

Tapas lunch!

 

 

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From the top of Primrose Hill.

Since Jen and Bill have lived in England for two years, I’ve heard about Sunday roast. I always do some sort of roast in my house on Sundays, albeit for dinner not lunch, but this was an authentic meal I wanted to experience. After a long walk from home to Abbey Road then Primrose Hill (where you can get the most gorgeous view of the city as you can see above), we took a short cab ride to Hampstead. This was a favorite part of the city for me that I would love to revisit. A small town, at the top of a windy and hilly neighborhood street was The Holly Bush, which is about as traditional an English restaurant as you can find. As luck would have it, they were able to seat our party immediately as we were all famished from all the walking.

london4If there is roast chicken on a menu, you can guarantee I will order it, but when in England, I was going to eat like the natives, so I selected the beef with Yorkshire pudding. I like my beef really rare and the piece I was given was perfection and just the right size. Small potatoes accompanied along with a big puffy Yorkshire pudding, which for those who don’t know what it is, is a popover, not what we know as “pudding.” And speaking of pudding, since we weren’t stuffed following dinner, we ordered traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Again, not what we know as “pudding” in our country, I would say this was similar to steamed bread, topped with a little bit of ice cream. And it truly was delicious! (We also discovered that the British word for rutabaga is “swede” and that the actor, Timothy Dalton (aka James Bond), was sitting behind us during our meal!)

london6Of all the meals I ate in London, if I were to recreate one at home, this would be it. Potatoes aren’t my usual favorite, but these seemed to be boiled then roasted; so the outside was crunchy but the inside perfectly creamy. The meat, which I think was grass-fed and probably local, was perfectly cooked to my preference, spices just right, with a little bit of horseradish and gravy on the side. The veg, served family style in a bowl, was a combination of root vegetables, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, all my favorites. I left that meal incredibly happy and perfectly satisfied.

Next week, I’ll bring you two or three more memorable London meals!

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