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Photo by: Joseph DeLeo
This preparation elevates the stew to a fine dining experience. Searing tender steak pieces and then removing them allows the fond of brown bits in the pan to infuse the dish and simmer into a long-cooking grain without overcooking the meat. Spinach adds a note of freshness and color. Purple or black barley, or any grain, would work well here.
Cut the beef into 1-inch, bite-size pieces. Combine the flour, salt, and cracked pepper on a plate, and roll half of the beef in this seasoned flour. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the unfloured half of the beef, and cook over medium-high heat until the beef is browned but still rare in the center. Scrape the beef into a bowl, drain the fat back into the pan, and cook the floured beef. Transfer that beef to the bowl also. Quickly add the onion and carrot to the hot pan and scrape up the browned bits. As soon as the onion is golden, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until it is a shade darker. Add the barley, stock, and thyme and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.
When the barley is tender, add the beef to the pan and reheat. Stir in the spinach. Serve as soon as the spinach is just wilted and the beef is hot.
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