Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jeff Vandermeer is weird. Barley isn't weird.

Potatoes are so yesterday, barley is my new comfort food! Barley, all nutty and puffy, fills you up and keeps you warm. Like oatmeal, only way better. This recipe, from Serious Eats, for Barley Chorizo Skillet Pie is a keeper. (Vegetarian? Swap the chorizo for some Morning Star or Boca imitation ground meat, but add some salt and hot pepper flakes or diced hot pepper to add some of that chorizo kick. Kosher? Swap the chorizo for some spicy turkey sausage) This was my first experience with chorizo, a fresh (uncooked) sausage that has been spiced with dried smoke red peppers. It was hotter, and greasier than I expected, but gave this dish depth, and provided some much needed grease in the pan (and I didn't have chapped lips all night! Awesome!).

The night before, or earlier in the day, cook the barley. 1 cup barley to 2.5 cups water in a sauce pan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes. When cool, refridgerate until needed.

Barley Chorizo Pie (adapted from Serious Eats)

8 large eggs
¼ cup chopped cilantro
olive oil (if needed)
salt (optional)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 pkg chorizo (or other spicy sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked pearl barley
½ cup grated cheese (any kind you want)

Chorizo is quite greasy, so if you're using a substitute, expect to add a little more oil.

In a large, heavy, oven proof skillet cook chorizo, onion and green pepper over medium heat. Cook, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Then mix in the barley and garlic, adding a bit more olive oil, if needed.

In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt and cilantro. Lower the stove heat to medium low. Pour the egg mixture over the mixture in the skillet, and as it cooks, gently pull it away from the sides, so uncooked eggs can fall to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the pie has firmed up, and most of the eggs have cooked.

Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle cheese over the pie, and broil for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted and begun to brown on top. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Hot, delicious, (somewhat) healthy, and a great winter comfort food!

And, like I always say, nothing goes better with food than books!
I've renewed my obsession with Jeff Vandermeer thanks to City of Saints and Madmen, half of which is comprised of short stories of the rise and fall of Ambergris (go ahead, look that word up in the dictionary! I dare you!) and it's inhabitants, and the 2nd half is all appendices, which really are short stories unto themselves. Not only does Vandermeer write beautifully surreal fantastical . . . genre-bending fiction, he also relishes in literary puns. It's genius. If you are comfortable or curious about the fantasy subgenre dubbed “new weird”, get yourself some Vandermeer. City of Saints and Madmen is an excellent place to start, as would be Shreik: an Afterword, which takes place in the same city, with many of the same characters.

Thanks toWhitney Matheson, of Pop Candy, I've been introduced to Strangers in Paradise, the graphic novel series by Terry Moore. Two volumes in, and I'm hooked. This is a girly, romantic graphic novel, so if you're looking for superheroes or car chases, you might want to try X-Men, or G.T.O. or something. Katchoo is in love with, and lives with her best friend Francine. They are just two pretty normal 20-somethings, except Katchoo has a dark past involving prostitution and the mafia, and Francine eternally needs to lose a few pounds and gain some self confidence. Boyfriends come and go, but best friends are forever. Sounds cheesy, but this isn't “coming of age”, or “inspirational” or anything like that. It's just two best friends trying to make it in the world. And it's drawn just beautifully.

I also got a Thai cookbook from the library, can't wait to try some of these recipes!

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