Belly-Warming Barley Porridge

February 10, 2022
4 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons. Food Stylist: Ericka Martins.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I love mushy food. Especially in the doldrums of winter, I crave hearty porridges that warm me from the inside out, require little more work than stirring, and are so spoonable that chewing is optional. Bowls of oatmeal, daal, risotto, congee, grits—I could go on. As luck would have it, this style of dish is also quite budget-friendly. In this recipe, I landed on chewy pearled barley as the porridge base, which is cheaper than other grains like steel-cut oats, farro, and millet. (Though, fun fact: You could make this dish with any of the above, or whatever grains you have on hand.)

Here, cook the barley ($1.80) and 1½ cups cooked white beans (about $0.30 from dried or $2 for a can) together, low and slow, until they break open into a rich, creamy porridge. Meanwhile, to get some color and bright flavor in this dish, roast a bunch of bitter broccoli rabe ($3.50) with ground coriander and grated garlic just until it starts to char. Make some quick-pickled onions with lemon or lime ($1) to toss over the porridge and greens just before serving. For a bit of crunch (not required, but very welcome), top each bowl with a handful of toasted sesame or sunflower seeds. —Rebecca Firkser

Test Kitchen Notes

Nickel & Dine is a budget column by Rebecca Firkser, assigning editor at Food52 and mushy food stan. Each month, Rebecca will share an easy, flavor-packed recipe that feeds four (or just you, four times)—all for $10 or less. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 cups pearled barley, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini or navy (from one 15.5-ounce can, drained and rinsed, or a heaping ½ cup dried)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 pound (1 bunch) broccoli rabe, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced through the root end
  • 1 large lemon or lime
  • Toasted sesame or sunflower seeds, for serving (optional)
  • Red pepper or mild chile flakes, for serving (optional)
  1. Place the barley and the beans in a medium saucepan with 6 cups of water. Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper, then bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Continue cooking, stirring every 15 minutes or so, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the beans a bit, until the grains are tender and the mixture is thick and creamy (think: the texture of risotto), about 40 minutes. If at any point the mixture looks dry or is starting to stick to the pot, add another ¼ cup of water and continue cooking until it reaches the right texture; if it looks more soupy than porridgy after 40 minutes, remove the lid and continue cooking until a bit more liquid reduces. Remove from the heat and use a Microplane to grate in 1 garlic clove, then season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  2. While the porridge cooks, heat the oven to 400°F. Scatter the broccoli rabe on a sheet pan. Use a Microplane to grate over the remaining garlic cloves, then drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the coriander and season with salt and pepper. Toss, massaging the garlic into the greens. Roast until the broccoli rabe is tender and starting to char in some spots, about 15 minutes.
  3. While the broccoli rabe roasts, place the onion in a small bowl with a big pinch of salt. Zest the lemon or lime onto a cutting board and set aside. Halve the lemon or lime and squeeze the juice into the bowl with the onion. Use your fingers to massage the mixture together, then set aside to soak for at least 5 minutes.
  4. When you’re ready to eat, stir the lemon or lime zest into the porridge. Ladle the porridge into four bowls, then top each with some broccoli rabe, onions, and a splash of their tangy liquid. Season with more black pepper, drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with sesame or sunflower seeds and chile flakes, if using.

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  • Rebecca Firkser
    Rebecca Firkser
  • Jessica

3 Reviews

Jessica March 12, 2022
If I want to lean in a more Italianite direction, what would you suggest I sub in place of cumin? Looking forward to making this!!
Rebecca F. March 14, 2022
hi! There's no cumin called for in this recipe (though it would be delicious!); if you don't want to use coriander/lean more Italian, I'd suggest using fennel seed, which you can leave whole or coarsely grind. Hope you enjoy!
Jessica March 15, 2022
Oy sorry, fingers moved faster than my brain...fennel sounds great! Thanks so much :)