Barley Pilaf with Peas and Bacon

It's wise to keep a secret list of meals you can put together with what you might have in the pantry. Frozen vegetable (spinach, peas, fava beans, artichokes) + canned/curred protein (tuna, bacon, ham, prosciutto, smoked fish salami, etc) + grain (pasta, rice, noodles, barley) is a pretty good equation for those "I need a meal without a trip to the store times." These meals taste awesome with an egg on top, or a douse of cheese which I would consider more of a bonus garnish rather than an ingredient.

I came across Job's Tears (aka Chinese Barley, Tear Grass, or Hato Mugi) in a Japanese grocery store in San Francisco. Its shape is rounder and fatter than your average barley. The grain has a memorable toasted cereal flavor, not far from Cheerios or puffed wheat cereal. The texture is springy and light. The best news is that's its really really healthy with iron, fiber, and protein. According to the package Job's tears are known for being easy to digest, and and suggests adding to soup and rice. I think it is tasty enough to stand on its own and delicious cooked along spring flavors, thyme, peas, and bacon.

Barley Pilaf with Peas and Bacon

1/2 cup Job's Tears or Pearl Barley
1 tsp butter
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 tblsp white wine
black pepper
red pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
olive oil

Add the barley to stock pot with 1 teaspoon of butter, and a pinch of salt over medium low heat. Allow the barely to lightly toast, stirring often. Add water to cover the barely 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour until barley is soft with a little bite. Add frozen peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain and return to the pot. Meanwhile saute bacon (I used slab bacon) until well done. Add bacon to barley and peas along with a few grinds of fresh black pepper, a small pinch of red pepper, white wine, thyme leaves, plus olive oil and salt to taste. Stir and serve warm. This meal is really great with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or fried egg on top and served on top of spinach leaves.


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