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African-Spiced Black Barley with Okra and Tomatoes
© Reed Davis

African-Spiced Black Barley with Okra and Tomatoes


Ethiopian black barley, a darker variety of pearled barley, is currently being cultivated in Arizona and California. The grain splits open to reveal a bright white center. You can also use pearled barley or red rice in this dish; neither will need as long a cooking time.

  1. 1 1/4 cups black barley (about 1/2 pound)
  2. 3 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  3. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  4. 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 large garlic clove, minced
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  8. 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  9. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  10. Pinch of ground cloves
  11. 1 cup water
  12. 1 pound small okra, stems trimmed
  13. Salt
  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the barley with water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the barley has split and is tender but still slightly chewy, about 45 minutes. Drain the barley and transfer to a bowl.
  2. Wipe out the saucepan and heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in it. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat until their juices thicken, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne and cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the barley and the water, cover and simmer over low heat until the flavors are nicely blended, about 4 minutes.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until almost smoking. Add the okra and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes. Season the okra with salt and stir into the barley. Season the barley with salt and serve hot.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring back to a simmer before proceeding.

Suggested Pairing

This spice-rich vegetable stew warrants an equally spicy red with a texture to match. A California Zinfandel is just right, particularly if the stew accompanies a hearty meat dish.



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