I am proud to be the newest groupie in the barley fan club. I've had it in dishes here and there, but I've only begun cooking with it myself this fall. And let me tell you, it's my new favorite carb. It's a like a pumped up grain of rice with a chewy, pasta-like texture. Nutty in flavor, this grain is used in everything from your breakfast cereal to your favorite beer. Anything that versatile is always welcome in my kitchen. Especially when slathered in pesto....yum.
My inspiration for this recipe was a delicious posting I saw at one of my favorite blogs, love & olive oil. Though I've made Italian and Mexican inspired peppers, I'd never thought of putting pesto into a pepper. It's one of those recipes I read, then immediately smack my head for not thinking of it. Roasted red peppers and pesto are such a classic pairing, it makes fantastic sense just to fill one with the other. And let's face it, peppers are the superior food vessel of the two.
The rich, nutty flavor of pesto just called out to be paired with my new hero, barley. And what a fabulous combo they make. It's almost as if the barley is begging to be coated in the pesto. It soaked it all up and left me wishing I hadn't been so generous with my pesto in previous meals throughout the week. The result was chewy little nuggets of rich savory deliciousness, brightened by basil and garlic. The hubs scraped his plate, a major accolade indeed.
With all the lovely, nutty flavors in staring role. wrapped in a sweet pepper oven-roasted pepper, I decided it was time to go hard with my mix-ins rather than going home. I chopped zucchini and the top s of my peppers and roasted them in the oven while my I prepped my pepper. As pictured above, I just tossed the diced veggies on a cookie sheet and placed the pepper upside down on the rack above it. In ten minutes, I had a soft, roasted pepper....five more minutes to crispy and perfectly toasted veggies (just a touch of charring on the edge....so good). A super easy way to kill two birds with one stone.
And, of course, what dinner isn't complete without a sprinkling of Parmesan?
So that's it! If you start with pre-made barley and pesto, you'll have a whopping total prep time of about 5 minutes. This dish is wonderfully weeknight as most of the total cook time is inactive oven roasting. That gives you time to prop up your feet, sip on some wine and maybe snuggle with a pups. Life is good.
Roasted Pesto Barley Stuffed Peppers (serves 2 or 4)
- 2 large red peppers
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 1/2 c cooked barley
- 3 tbs pesto (easy recipe below!)
- 1 tsp garlic
- 1/3 c Parmesan, divided
- salt & pepper
Position the racks in the middle and lower third of the oven. Place a cookie sheet on the lower level and preheat to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, chop the tops off your peppers and remove all the membranes and seeds. Remove the stems from the tops and roughly chop the remaining pepper tops. Chop the zucchini into pieces roughly the same size as the pepper bits. You want to end up with about a 2-1 ratio of zucchini to pepper.
When the oven is hot, pull out the cookie sheet and spray with non-stick. Sprinkle the vegetables evenly over the hot sheet, then push back into the oven. Place the peppers upside down on rack directly above the cookie sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, then remove the peppers. Keep roasting the vegetables until they are slightly crispy and well toasted (they may be ready when the pepper is done), then remove the sheet from the oven and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the barley, pesto and garlic. Stir until all the barley is evenly coated. Add the roasted vegetables and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Fill the peppers with the pesto barley mixture, then place right side up on the same cookie sheet. Place back in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes until warmed through. Remove when the cheese is melted and the barley is warmed through. Serve whole as a meal themselves or halve and serve as a side dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan immediately before serving.
Basic Basil Pesto
I have been making this recipe for about three years, and have never come close to finding anything in the stores nearly as good. About half the oil as regular pesto, this recipe is light and healthy.
- 1/4 c chopped pine nuts, walnuts or other nuts
- 2 c packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 c fresh Parmesan
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbs water
- salt & pepper (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until very smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add additional olive oil a teaspoon at a time and continue to process. Also great if you toast the nuts before hand!