Toasted Barley Flakes with Figs

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sunligh Café
Preparation time: About 30 minutes (less than 5 minutes of work, plus intermittent stirring)
Yield: 3 servings

This is a wonderful and unusual breakfast dish. Barley flakes are very similar to rolled oats, but instead of turning soft when they're cooked, they remain separate and chewy, like a pilaf. This is true regardless of how much liquid you add or how long they're cooked. And no amount of reheating will cause them to become mushy, either--barley flakes stay fluffy forever!

NOTE: Use a skillet with a tight-fitting lid.

1 cup barley flakes
2 cups water
8 to 10 fresh or dried figs, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Milk, soy milk, or cream
Honey to taste (optional)
  1. Toast the barley flakes over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet (no oil necessary) for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring intermittently. In the meantime, bring the water to a boil, trim the figs of their stems, and slice them.
  2. When the flakes become lightly golden and emit a toasty aroma, add the salt and figs, if using dried fruit. Pour the boiling water into the skillet, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed and the flakes are as tender you like them.
  3. Serve hot, drizzled with the milk of your choice, and with figs (if using fresh) gently scattered on top. Sweeten to taste with honey, if desired. (You might find it sweet enough already from the figs.)
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