One of the main ideas behind harmony à la carte is that you don’t need complicated recipes to be able to make a healthy well balanced meal. What you need is a set of guidelines, ideas and knowledge to help you work your own magic in the kitchen. Of course I post recipes, they can be very helpful, especially to newbies in the kitchen, but they are never intended as a be all and end all. Sure I test them and I stand behind them and if you chose to recreate them exactly as I have, I’m perfectly happy, but I also recognize that food is a personal choice and every good recipe should be open to interpretation and should withstand some modifications based on personal taste and ingredients on hand. If you’re new in the kitchen, this can seem intimidating, so following recipes just as they are is absolutely ok, but as you gain experience and confidence, you’ll find that you may want to start adding your own personal touch to everything you make.
The reality is that most of us lead hectic lifestyles these days and meal times can sometimes unintentionally be an after thought. I’m a self proclaimed foodie and I sometimes find myself standing in the kitchen without a clue as to what I should make for dinner. Sometimes I turn to my favourite cookbooks or blogs for ideas and inspiration and many times I just pull stuff out of the pantry and fridge, which I keep stocked with whole food ingredients, and create a spur of the moment no fuss pantry meal that we can enjoy while nourishing our bodies.
This here is one of those pantry meals or what I like to call an à la carte meal. The term ‘à la carte’ is French for food that can be ordered as separate items rather than part of a set meal and that’s just what this is, a combination of delicious things that work well as side dishes to any meal but can make a nice meal when combined.
What we have here is some semi pearl barley, cooked and tossed in a Pine Nut Parsley Dressing, chopped fresh parsley and chopped walnuts, accompanied by Blood Orange & Balsamic Caramelized Fennel, Balsamic Roasted Asparagus and Radicchio, and a slice of multi-grain sourdough bread with homemade Garlic & Thyme Cashew Cheese.
Any of the components can be made as a side dish to another meal and yet together they make a nice light yet satisfying meal of their own. The barley can be substituted for any other grain, and you can roast just about any vegetables you have on hand based on your taste preferences and seasonal availability and use any spread you like to add protein. Some ideas for protein packed spreads are:
- Garlic & Thyme Cashew Cheese (photographed)
- Hummus bi Tahini
- Red Lentil & Walnut Paté
- 5 Ingredient Cannellini Bean Spread
- Sumac Roasted Carrot & Cannellini Bean Spread
Here’s the ingredient list and method for the rest of what you see on the plate.
Barley with Pine Nut Parsley Dressing, Caramelized Fennel, Balsamic Roasted Asparagus and Radicchio
This meal “à la carte” is a no fuss way to enjoy lunch or dinner while nourishing your body as it has a good dose of the essential macronutrients; carbohydrates, fats and protein. Barley is dressed in a Pine Nut Parsley Dressing and accompanied by balsamic roasted vegetables and cashew cheese on sourdough bread. The barley can be swapped out for your favourite grain, you can use any combination of vegetables you have on hand and the cashew cheese can be replaced with your favourite nut cheese or bean spread.
Semi Pearl Barley Side Dish Ingredients:
- 1/2 C Semi Pear Barley
- 1 1/2 C Filtered water
- Pinch Fine Sea Salt
- Pine Nut Parsley Dressing, to taste (recipe below)
- 1/4 C Walnuts, coarsely chopped
- Handful of Parsley Leaves, coarsely chopped
- Cook barley according to package directions. This will vary depending on the brand and type of barley you use but as a general rule of thumb, if you’re using pearl barley like I did, it should cook in about 40 minutes. Just add the barley with 3 times the volume of water to a pot, bring to a boil, add a pinch of fine sea salt, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until all the water has been absorbed. If it boils over while cooking, I just crack the lid open a bit.
- Once ready, remove from heat, pour into a fine mesh strainer to drain any remaining water, then transfer to a serving bowl or dish and let cool.
- Meanwhile, prep the dressing and vegetables
- Once barley is cooled toss with pine nut parsley dressing, use as much or as little dressing as you like, chopped walnuts and fresh chopped parsley. Season with fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Serve with roasted vegetables (recipe ideas below) and a protein packed spread on whole grain sourdough bread or crackers.
Pine Nut Parsley Dressing
- 1/2 C Parsley, leaves and tender stems
- 1/4 C Pine Nuts
- 1 Lemon, juiced
- 1-2 Cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 Tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 1 Tbsp Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional, can be replaced with extra water or runny tahini for an oil free option, but the flavour will change slightly)
- 2-3 Tbsp Filtered Water, as needed to get a runny dressing consistency
- Blend all ingredients, except water, in a blender, food processor or using an immersion blender, add water as necessary to get a dressing consistency without it being too watery. Makes about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of dressing that keeps in the fridge in a glass jar for about a week. You can use it on any salad, as a vegetable dip or as a topping for avocado toast.
Balsamic Blood Orange Caramelized Fennel
- 1 Small/Medium Fennel Bulb
- 1/2 Blood Orange (1 1/2 Tbsp juice)
- 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar Cream
- Pinch of Fine Sea Salt
- Preheat oven to 200 C. Slice the top and bottom off the fennel, then slice the bulb part into wedges. Place in a glass baking dish, coat with blood orange juice and balsamic and a pinch of fine sea salt, and roast in a preheated oven until caramelized, about 30 minutes.
Balsamic Roasted Vegetables
- 10-15 Baby Asparagus Spears
- 1 Small Head of Radicchio, either sliced in 4 or peeled into individual leaves
- Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Cream, to taste
Note:I used baby asparagus and radicchio here but you can use any vegetables you like. Some ideas include endive lettuce, brussels sprouts, green beans, or other.
- Preheat oven to 200 C. Place vegetables on a parchment paper lined oven tray, drizzle with Balsamic vinegar or balsamic cream (aka reduced balsamic vinegar).
- Bake time varies by vegetable. Here it was 15 minutes for asparagus and 5 minutes for radicchio.