This barley bowl did not initially elicit excitement — my husband later described it as "unassuming"— but like so many grain bowls before it, this meal is more than the sum of its grains and vegetables. The details make all the difference.
In this case, the details include a hefty dose of Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly ground black pepper folded into the nutty barley; the surprising sweetness and crunch of the roasted broccoli and cauliflower; and a built-in sauce of soft-boiled egg yolk. The hearty mixture of flavors and textures was more than well-received by my family — they devoured it.
The Freezer Factor
The dish also includes my favorite culinary discovery so far this year: roasted frozen vegetables. I had no idea you could get beautiful browning and crispy edges on frozen broccoli. The trick is to pop them in the oven to defrost a few minutes before tossing with olive oil.
The roasted veggies add extra oomph to this already robust bowl, and I've never seen my kids eat so much broccoli. Having this method in my kitchen repertoire is huge for the weeks when frozen vegetables are our best bet for a balanced meal.
Parmesan Barley Bowl with Roasted Broccoli and a Soft Boiled Egg
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup pearl barley
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces frozen broccoli
10 ounces frozen cauliflower
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
Hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Add 1 tablespoon butter to a medium pot over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add the barley and sauté until the grains are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the water and increase the heat to high until the water comes to a boil. Stir the barley once, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain any excess water, return to the pot, and stir in the cheese and black pepper. Cover until ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Break up the broccoli and cauliflower into a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and drizzle with the olive oil, and stir to combine. Return to the oven and roast until the vegetables get brown and crispy at the edges, another 30 minutes, stirring halfway through the cook time.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring only 2 or 3 times, until the mushrooms are deeply browned, about 10 minutes
Also meanwhile, boil and peel the eggs. A runny egg adds extra sauce to this bowl, so 7 to 9 minutes is the sweet spot.
Divide the barley among four bowls. Top with an equal amount of the broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms. Place an egg on each serving. Serve immediately with hot sauce on the side.