Spring forage fever! Ramps (wild leeks) are being harvested from the woods by the garbage-bag full, and graciously shared between friends. My friend sent me home with a pungent ramp pesto, a basic blend of ramps, olive oil and parmesan. I blended this meal with cultivated leeks, which were abundant at Saturday’s farmers market. The protein-rich, nutty barley, caramelized beets, and tangy preserved lemon added bright, harmonious flavors.

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Roasted Leeks and Beets, over Ramp Pesto Barley with Preserved Lemons

Yield: 4 entrees

Ingredients

  • Barley - 1 cup
  • Water - 3 cups
  • Beets - 1 large, or 2-3 medium, beets
  • Leek - 1 large leek
  • Ramp pesto - 1 tablespoon
  • Olive oil - 3 tablespoons
  • Sea salt - 1 teaspoon
  • Black pepper - Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemons (optional) - Preserved lemons

Instructions

  1. Rinse the barley in a colander twice to remove starchy coating.
  2. Add to a pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
  3. Cover and cook for about 1 hour, or until barley has fully absorbed the water. Check once or twice, but try not to check too much and release evaporation!
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the beets into uniform, bite-size pieces. Place on a baking sheet.
  6. Halve the leek and rinse in between each leaf. Leeks like to keep sandy soil neatly tucked into the folds. Cut the leek in thirds. Line on the same baking sheet.
  7. Coat beets and leeks with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and half the sea salt.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes.
  9. When barley is cooked, remove and rinse with cold water in a colander, draining excess water. Add to a serving bowl.
  10. In a small bowl, mix together the pesto and remaining salt and olive oil. Add to the barley and mix well.
  11. Arrange the barley and roasted vegetables on a plate.
  12. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.
  13. Remove one preserved lemon from the jar. Rinse off the salt. Chop into small pieces or garnish as a wedge. Tangy and lip-puckering deliciousness!
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