A few weeks ago, the New York Times' Melissa Clark wrote about baked apples with barley-chorizo pilaf. Accompanied by a drool-inducing photo, it was one of those recipes I wanted to try immediately but didn't, because the fat content would conclusively end my semi-perpetual diet. Instead, I got busy substituting.
Substitutes are crucial to healthy cooking. They can reduce fat and calories, add key vitamins, and make fatty, delicious meals into lean(er), delicious(er) meals. Admittedly, it's never wise to go too far--swapping turkey bacon for real bacon should be considered a federal offense--but in moderation, substitutes can work wonders.
For this particular dish, the primary change was the sausage. Instead of chorizo, I used a few sweet turkey links, removed from their casings. Then, I traded hazelnuts for thriftier walnuts, and reduced the amount by about two tablespoons. Finally, since the dish practically begged for it, a little cinnamon completed everything.
The results were pretty dang good, if I do say so myself. (Modestee: I haz it.) Savory, chewy, and a little nutty, the pilaf would have been sufficient enough as a side dish. The addition of the apples made everything sweeter and more substantive, appropriate for a full meal with lots of stellar leftovers. Next time, for kicks, I'll probably sub in some raisins as well.
One note, however: Half my apples burst. While this didn't affect the taste terribly, serving got a little messy. Keep a careful eye during baking and all should be well.
- Yield:4 to 8
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 10 ounces sweet turkey sausage, removed from casing
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup pearl barley
- 1 2/3 cups chicken broth, more as needed
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1/3 cup shelled, chopped and toasted nuts
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tart, crisp apples, such as Granny Smiths
In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and onion and cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add barley and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring, until barley smells nutty, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until barley is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 40 to 50 minutes. Stir in walnuts and cinnamon.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick apples with fork in several places (this will prevent them from bursting while baking). Halve apples lengthwise and cut out core with a paring knife or grapefruit spoon.
Place apples, cut side up, in an 11-by 7-inch baking dish. Pour 1/4 inch water in bottom of pan. Mound barley mixture on apples. Cover with foil and transfer to oven to bake until apples are fork tender, 30 to 45 minutes.