When I was young, my mom would make my sisters and me desserts all the time. It was our motivation for eating dinner. On a really special night, or probably when we were having fish or peas, she would make a parfait-style dessert and we would all eat as fast as we could to get our spoons in the creamy, delicious mixture.
Parfait is a French word that means perfect and is traditionally a frozen, layered dessert. Like so many foods, parfaits have become Americanized, and now you see them layered with goodies such as yogurt, ice cream, granola and nuts. This Colorful Cooking parfait includes barley, strawberries and a ricotta and apricot mixture that creates a beautiful look, as well as a healthy treat.
Barley is a whole grain that is low in sodium, has a low glycemic count and is high in fiber. This ancient grain promotes healthy digestion, is high in selenium and helps to prevent colon cancer. Hulled barley fights breast cancer, as well, with lignans which are phytochemicals that act as antioxidants.
Barley has a tough, inedible hull, and the hull must be removed before eating. During this process, some of the bran is rubbed off. Barley’s high fiber content allows it to be considered a highly healthy grain at any processing rate, since fiber is found throughout the kernel. Typically, you will see pearl and semi-pearled barley at the grocery stores. Pearl barley means some bran is rubbed off during processing, and semi-pearled barley means some bran remains intact. Again, both are very good for you.
A good way to get whole grains into your diet is to cook more than you need and store them in the refrigerator for easy access. This reserve lasts about five days and can be used for a warm breakfast cereal with cinnamon and sugar, mixed into a salad to give it some body or added to a soup to ramp up the nutritional value of your meal.
Barley is the base layer of this parfait, and the juice from the apricots and strawberries melt into the layers, making it appear to be much more calorie-laden than it is. As kids, my mom had the perfect parfait glasses, which are tall and thin with a small stem. Using plastic, clear, stemless wine glasses makes this treat easy to bring to an outdoor concert and less nerve wracking if you have the kids assemble their own — which is a fun thing for them to do.
2 cups cooked barley
2 cups chopped strawberries
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ to 3/4 cup apricot jelly
1/8 cup mint, minced
1 cup whipped cream (optional)
Cook barley according to package directions. Place barley on a baking sheet, spread out grains to a thin layer, and put in the refrigerator to let cool. Mix ricotta, jelly and mint in a bowl. Chop strawberries and place in a bowl; stir in sugar, and let rest.
When ready to assemble, using a tall glass (or plastic wine glass) layer barley, jelly mixture, strawberries, barley, jelly mixture, strawberries. Layer as many times as you would like, end with strawberries on top and garnish with a mint sprig and whipped cream (if desired).
Makes 4-6 parfaits.
Tracy Miller adds fruits and veggies to all of her meals. She teaches cooking classes and shares recipes on TV8’s “Good Morning Vail.” To contact her, email Tracy@colorfulcooking.com or visit Colorfulcooking.com.