Cheesy Butternut Squash Barley Bake
Polar vortex. Arctic misery. Fun terms from the newspaper to describe this 'hell's frozen over' weather we've been subjected to pretty much everywhere in the country. Yesterday we woke up to a temperature of 6 degrees F but it rose to a balmy 8 degrees by Noon. Joy. Hadley and I ventured out wrapped in several layers of fur and cloth but it didn't last long. She actually seemed OK and was busy sniffing the frozen city but I really needed to get back inside to restore the circulation to my legs and face.
potato soup for lunch but I wanted a bowl of something warm and comforting for dinner as well. Comfort food can still be healthy, though, and I have a pantry full of wonderful grains. I read somewhere that toasting barley before cooking it brings out more flavor and it was just too easy not to try. Into my cast iron pan it went and, 5 minutes later, I had fragrant, nutty toasted grains. The cooked version was so much better than usual that I will never cook barley untoasted again. In fact, tomorrow I may be tossing all the rest of my grains into the cast iron pan to see what happens. Enjoy!
1/2 Cup pearled barley
1 1/2 Cups water
2 Cups peeled and diced butternut squash
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Small onion, peeled and diced
2 Cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 Cup milk (I used low fat)
1/2 Cup shredded cheese (Gruyere or cheddar both work well)
1 Tablespoon chopped herbs (sage, basil or chives would work)
Salt & pepper to taste
Add the olive oil, onion and garlic to a large saute pan and cook on low heat until translucent. Whisk in the flour and then the milk. Stir in half the cheese and add the cooked squash and barley. Stir in the herbs and season to taste.
You can bake the mixture right in the saute pan, if it's oven proof, or you can move it to a gratin dish. I used two 12 oz. individual baking dishes. Top the mixture with the remaining cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Makes 2 servings.