Chat Leftovers: Barley, Date Night Menu and Party Drink Planning
There were too many good questions left hanging in the What's Cooking queue yesterday; below, a few for the road that bear consideration and your feedback, of course:
Silver Spring, Md.: What is the difference between pearl barley and whole barley. I bought whole rather than pearl. Will it need more cooking time or more liquid to substitute?
Whole barley (aka hulled barley, and on occasion, pot barley) is the more nutritious of the two, with only the outer husk removed, whereas pearl parley is "pearled" - which means steamed, polished and stripped of its bran coating.
Thing is, pearl barley cooks much faster; a one-cup portion takes about 35 minutes to cook, about half the time it takes to cook the same amount of hulled barley. In "A New Way to Cook," Sally Schneider recommends that hulled barley, like other chewy whole grains, benefit from being soaked for several hours before cooking, and when ready to cook, cover it in liquid, plus three inches, and replenish liquid as necessary.
Java: So am I crazy or what? I love iced lattes in the AM, but as a single mom with 2 preschool age kids making my own every morning just isn't happening. I've been thinking if Starbucks can make and bottle a latte, why can't I? So could I? Make a week's worth of lattes and store in the fridge?
You are are so not crazy, Mom. Earlier this summer, I wrote about cold-brewed coffee, which is exactly like it sounds -- coffee brewed in cold water and steeped overnight to yield the intensity and rich flavor that far surpasses the hot stuff. For the latte part of your beverage, just add cold milk to your coffee concentrate, a little water and you're good to go, darlin'. Since learning this trick, I've been making a pitcher of coffee concentrate every few weeks to help satisfy those midafternoon caffeine hankerings. Two minutes is all you need to mix your cold brew, and you'll quickly discover how much money you're saving from not making those daily iced lattes. One batch of concentrate makes 12 servings, which is about 3 bucks, plus cost of milk. Sounds like a plan, no?
Washington, D.C.: Do you have a fairly fail-safe menu idea for a homemade weeknight dinner date? I'm out of practice, and I was a vegetarian during my formative cooking years, so I'm always worried about cooking meat correctly.
I love questions like this. I suppose it depends on where things stand in the relationship: Is this a new thing and you're still in the nervous, eager-to-impress phase -- or are you two at a point that kitchen collaboration is a possibility? Cooking with someone you have the hots for is quite intoxicating and is a great way to learn more about each other.
At first, I was going to say a roast chicken because it's aromatic and homey and you both can tear into crackly skin and share a drumstick, but a whole chicken takes at least 90 minutes, sometimes longer. Is that realistic for a school night date? You tell me. However, you could save a lot of time and cut out the backbone of the bird and butterfly it, so that it flattens, and remove most of the skin. Both of these tricks effectively reduce cooking time by about 30 minutes.
I'm also thinking of a pizza dough made the night before so that you lovebirds can roll it out together, make a simple tomato sauce and do the topping thing. Wouldn't that be fun?
With autumn officially underway (even if the air is more July-ish in nature), I've got grilled cheese and soup on my mind. The night before the date, make an ad hoc winter squash puree that can be quickly reheated while you whip up grilled cheese sandwiches to order. Cool-weather greens are beginning to resurface, which means a quickie salad of arugula, with a spritz of lemon, olive oil, salt and hey! What about thinly sliced pears? I don't know about you, but the soup-sandwich combo always tugs at my heart, deserving of at least one big smooch for the cook.
What say you? Share your date-night menu ideas in the comments area below.
I am planning a relatively large "open house" party for Saturday, probably about 40 people. How should I calculate how much beer/wine/soda I need on hand? I have never given a party this large before!!
Any advice on menu. Here's what I'm thinking so far. I'm a vegetarian, but would like to have one meat dish -- so, a beef tenderloin with olive/red pepper sauce, a jalapeno and cheese frittata, flageolet and wild rice salad, a green salad, some French bread, and cheese and crackers. What else could I have to round this out? Or is it enough already?
You need dessert -- fruit, cookies, brownies -- something sweet and nibbly that you can make in advance and just put out after the platters have been cleared. An open house is different from a sit-down party; the expectations are slightly different, but if you've told people you're serving dinner, they will come to chow. I might consider something else to go with the cheese and cracker display -- a bowl of hummus with veggies or pita chips and some other kind of dip to keep people happy as they wander in throughout the evening.
As for the bevs, estimate 2 glasses of wine (about Â½ bottle) per person or 2 bottles of beer, but before doing that, look over the guest list, identifying the winos, brew guzzlers and nondrinkers. If you've determined most of your folks are wine drinkers, then you need to buy more wine than beer. Regardless, you always need about 16 ounces of nonalcoholic options per guest, because even the booze hounds need a little hydration -- and sobering up before heading home.
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