I’ve had horrible insomnia for the past couple of weeks. Some nights, my mind wanders to innocuous places, and the tiniest thing is blown up into a super stress-filled drama in my head. Other nights, I am perfectly content, yet still can’t seem to get to sleep. So I’m either tossing and turning, getting up to read at 3 a.m., stressing about something ridiculous or staring at the ceiling, bored to death. The other night, I had an especially hard time falling asleep, so instead of letting my mind wander to thoughts that would keep me awake, I willed my mind to do something more constructive and creative, which led to assembling a new dish for the blog in my head. I began thinking about this particular recipe, then dissected and reconstructed it—and the recipe here is what I came up with.
This turned out to be a fabulous dish that only looks like it requires a lot of work. The faux roe and sweet soy glaze can be made the night before, the pearled barley goes straight into the rice cooker and the lacinato kale only requires a quick and easy saute. Assembly in a ring mold isn’t really necessary for the dish, as the flavors all work together well on their own, but it does make a nice presentation at the end.
for the sweet soy glaze
2 TB dark sesame oil
1 TB grated fresh ginger
1/2 TB grated fresh garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup sake
3/4 cup raw agave syrup
1/4 tsp xantham gum (not completely necessary for this recipe—if you don’t have it, the glaze will still taste good.)
for the pearled barley
3/4 cup pearled barley
2 cups water
1 TB rice vinegar
1 TB sugar
1/2 TB salt
2 TB black sesame seeds
To prepare the faux roe:
If you are using prepared beet juice, skip to the next paragraph. If you are using fresh beets, place them with the water into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash the beets with a potato masher, then strain. Reserve the beet pieces for pickling or roasting later.
Bring the beet juice to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add in the amaranth and whisk well. Boil, uncovered for about 25 minutes, whisking occasionally to ensure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. (The amaranth should be slightly al dente—do not overcook.) Then, place the cooked amaranth with any leftover liquid into the refrigerator to cool and soak overnight.
About an hour before you want to assemble the dish, strain out the beet juice, and set it over a bowl to drain more. Slightly press on the top to get some of the extra moisture out.
To prepare the sweet soy glaze:
Heat the sesame oil over low heat. Add the ginger and garlic. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add in the rest of the glaze ingredients, except for the xantham gum, and bring to a very low simmer. Allow to reduce for about 40 minutes, lowering the heat if the simmer increases and stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and whisk in the xantham gum. Strain out the ginger and garlic into a container, then place it into the refrigerator. It will thicken slightly as it cools.
To prepare the pearled barley:
Place the barley and water into a rice cooker, and cook on the white rice setting. In a separate bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt. Set aside.
Once the pearled barley is done, transfer it to the bowl with the vinegar sugar and salt. Stir to combine, then sprinkle it with the black sesame seeds. Stir again and allow to slightly cool.
To prepare the kale:
Heat the sesame oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add in the kale and allow to soften and brighten for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with the white sesame seeds.
To assemble the stack:
Lightly grease a food ring mold. Divide the kale and spoon it into each of the molds. Press down firmly over the entire surface. Next, spoon the pearled barley mixture up to the top of the mold. Press down firmly, refilling it as needed. Once everything is tightly packed, press down on the top of the barley while pulling the ring up slowly and straight.
Next, spoon the faux-roe over the top of the stack. Top with microgreens if desired, then spoon the sweet soy glaze over the top. Serve immediately.