For a simple dinner with big flavor fast, Darra Goldstein urges home cooks to give barley a chance. “I like to use it instead of rice since it has a deeper, nutty flavor,” says the author of “Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore.” She combines quick-cooking pearl barley with broth, scallions, fresh herbs and pine nuts for a speedy weeknight casserole. To make our version, in a large saucepan over medium-high, melt 2 tablespoons salted butter. Add 1⁄4 cup pine nuts and cook, stirring, until the butter has browned and the pine nuts are toasted. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and set aside; wipe out the pan. In the same saucepan over medium-high, melt another 2 tablespoons butter. Add the thinly sliced whites of 1 bunch scallions and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup pearled barley (rinsed and drained) and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Stir in 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to low, cover and cook until the barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the thinly sliced scallion greens, 1⁄2 cup lightly packed fresh dill, flat-leaf parsley or a combination (roughly chopped) and the pine nut-butter mixture. Taste and season with kosher salt and black pepper. For a heartier version, Goldstein adds leftover meats, such as shredded brisket or roast chicken.
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