Barley with Olives and Sundried Tomatoes

This recipe is inspired by two insights hard won by Bill Buford, as described in his book Heat: An Amateur's Adventures As Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany: that pasta chefs use water from cooking the pasta to emulsify and thicken sauces; that, historically, before corn arrived in Italy, Italians made polenta from barley. I thought: why not do a pasta/risotto-like thing with barley? While pasta is middling on the glycemic index, I find it kicks up my glucose levels a fair bit, and it is low on fibre, even the whole wheat pasta.

I used hulled barley for this. Hulled barley has had only the outermost hull removed. Barley also comes as pot barley (which is further polished but has some endosperm remaining) and pearled barley (which is highly polished).


Cook up your hulled barley as you would pasta, in a vigorously boiling pot of water. It takes 40-50 minutes to get the barley done to the chewiness level that you'd like.

Chop up sundried tomatoes (the kind that come in oil) and pitted olives (the very dark, dense shrivelled ones that look like miniature prunes, perhaps called Moroccan dry-cured olives). You want about a tablespoon of each per cup of barley you're going to serve.

Warm a big glass bowl in which you will mix things (e.g., by rinsing with hot water).

Mix up the tomatoes and olives and barley. Moisten with good quality olive oil to taste.

Mix in nutrional yeast (you can find this at the health food store) by sprinkling a layer and then tossing with a fork. You could use parmesan cheese instead, but you get a similar effect with the yeast.