The dog days of summer are upon us. I live in a region where the temperatures are typically low through out the year and today’s 90 degrees F seemed very hot to me. Did you know barley water is an excellent drink to quench the thirst that you feel during summer. No amount of iced tea or power drinks or juices hydrate you better than barley water, so be sure to try it.  An added benefit is that barley water is known to flush toxins out of kidneys so you will feel extra good when you drink barley water. Barley water is made by boiling about a tbsp of barley seeds in a quart of water, until the water has reduced by half. Drink it hot or cold, with an optional dash of lemon or lime juice.

Barley is a grain and is highly nutritious for you. It is a source of dietary fiber, magnesium, chromium, vitamin B1 and several other beneficial minerals. Regular consumption of barley is linked to lowered levels of cholesterol, lowered risk of diabetes and preventing or slowing build up of plaque in blood vessels. Unfortunately this grain is not gluten free, so you must avoid barley if you cannot tolerate gluten in your diet.

In any case, on this hot summer day, I decided to be extra nice to myself and treat myself to double the goodness of barley. Barley water, and this highly satisfying meal with barley, potatoes and kale. I drank up the water that was drained from cooking the barley as I prepared this meal for dinner tonight. The barley is chewy and satisfying, while the potatoes make it seem like comfort food and the kale adds an additional dimension of color and flavor to the dish.

I strongly prefer hulled barley as opposed to pearl barley. Hulled barley is the real deal, with the top coat of the seed still intact with the nutritive goodness of the grain. Of course that also results in longer cooking times. Pearl barley has the top layer of the seed removed, and is very commonly used in a lot of soups that call for barley as an ingredient.

Cooking time: 45 minutes (includes pressure cooking time)
Serves: 4 entree sized servings

1 cup hulled barley, rinsed and drained
5 cups water
2-3 tbsps olive oil
1 cup peeled and diced (3/4" dice) yukon gold potatoes
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
4 cups loosely packed kale, roughly chopped
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the barley and 5 cups water and pressure cook per manufacturer's directions. In my pressure cooker, I waited until I heard 6 whistles before I turned the heat off. If you don't have a pressure cooker, place the water and barley in a large heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered for up to 40 minutes or longer, until the barley is plumped up to 3 times its original size. Drain the extra water and save for a refreshing drink later. In a separate pan (non-stick or a well seasoned cast iron pan), on medium heat, add olive oil and cooked diced potatoes until they are golden. Lightly salt the potatoes. Toss in the sliced garlic and cook until garlic sizzles and is lightly browned on the edges. Add kale, a dash of salt and 1/4 cup water. Cook until kale is slightly wilted. Sprinkle the paprika, red pepper flakes and the apple cider vinegar onto the kale mixture. Fold in the cooked and drained barley. Season the barley with additional salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.