Everyone knows oatmeal is a cholesterol-lowering food. But frankly, oatmeal leaves me cold. The consistency kind of grosses me out, and it reminds me of poor, sad Oliver Twist holding out his porridge bowl. And that is no way to start every day.
So I reverted back to my 1/2 bagel-with-smidge-of-cream-cheese-and-lox daily breakfast. True, the momentary culinary delight gives way to guilt over skipping the holy grail of cholesterol-lowering foods. But I’ve made peace with that.
Or I had – until I realized my next 6 month cholesterol check is not so far away. And with no daily oatmeal, kind-of-sort-of daily Metamucil and far too many Wendy’s runs, I’m likely to see poor results.
So I set out to see what other food I could start eating that would lower my cholesterol. A food that would not make me sad.
And happily, I found barley. I’d heard of it, of course – but never eaten it. And certainly never cooked it. In that wow-karma, the universe will provide way that sometimes happens, I opened the NYT Dining section last week and found Melissa Clark ‘s article, “Mushrooms and Barley, A Spring Jump Start.” Which was exactly what the, ahem, doctor was calling for.
Though the recipe itself is called a ‘salad’ (and you know I am not salad-girl), the picture showed NO salad greens so I decided to try it. I bought the ingredients but even then waited a few days because the recipe said it would take a daunting 90 minutes…which it DOES. But it’s not difficult – just a ton of chopping. So if you don’t like to chop – and/or your knives aren’t sharp – this is not the recipe for you. But if that sounds OK to you, forge ahead because this is tasty…and pretty easy.
My tips about this recipe:
- I used parsnip instead of celery root because I couldn’t find celery root and had never cooked parsnip. Turns out parsnip is a cinch to cook with, and imparts a slightly sweet taste that was great in this dish.
- As I did not find the ‘special’ mushrooms the recipe called for, I just used pre-sliced baby bella and white mushrooms. Totally fine – am sure would be better with special mushrooms, but ‘typical’ mushrooms were great in this dish.
- You MUST toast the pearl barley. I’d never done before and it’s simple – and fills the house with a delicious nutty aroma.
- The recipe explains why you should cook the barley in a virtual vat of boiling water – I did, and it did not stick!
- I used champagne vinegar rather than cider vinegar.
- I wish I’d tasted it BEFORE I added the vinaigrette – my son despises vinegar of any sort, and had I served it to him sans vinaigrette he probably would have liked it – because he liked the barley (!)
- I served this as a main dish – it took 90 minutes so that was all I was cooking! But in my view, it’s more of a side. Probably would be good with an actual green salad. Gak.
So fabulous…now I know how to toast and cook barley, and am free to play around with other add-ins and non-vinaigrette versions of this recipe. But the question remains: is it worth finding and fiddling with barley recipes?
And the answer is YES – because barley reduces cholesterol.
This Lower Cholesterol: Eat More Barley article, on the website of the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, a “leading authority in natural medicine” explains the clincial study that proves barley lowers cholesterol. It’s well written and a great explanation of how oatmeal – and barley – lower cholesterol:
“One study showed that for every 1 gram of soluble fiber consumed per day, total and LDL cholesterol decreased by 1.55 mg/dl. This means that consuming a diet high in soluble fiber can have a clinically important effect on serum cholesterol levels.”
This study is also well explained in WebMD’s Barley Helps Lower Cholesterol article. And you can find out more / all about barley and its nutritional values at the Barley Foods site: www.barleyfoods.org.