These rolls, an adaptation of Mediterranean stuffed grape leaves, make a substantial side dish. I use barley instead of rice because barley does not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, as rice does, and so therefore doesn’t initiate a strong Storage Cascade. I wrap the stuffing in large chard leaves, a Super-Savvy Carb, instead of grape leaves, but feel free to use grape leaves too if you wish. The barley is flavored with fresh herbs, aromatic vegetables, and two cheeses, which melt as the rolls heat to give the filling an almost creamy texture. The rolls could easily be served as a main dish with the addition of some shredded, cooked chicken or diced tofu to the filling.


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  • Prep Time


  • Total Time


  • Servings



  • 2

    tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing

  • ¾

    cup pearl barley

  • 2⅓

    cups water

  • Kosher salt

  • 1

    bunch Swiss chard (about 1 pound)

  • 2

    shallots, finely chopped

  • 1

    clove garlic, very finely chopped

  • 1

    tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

  • ½

    cup coarsely shredded mozzarella cheese, Gruyère, or Jarlsberg cheese, plus 2 tablespoons

  • 2

    tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • cup canned reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth


1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil until it shimmers. Add the barley and cook, stirring frequently, until thoroughly coated with the oil and lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat, if needed, to prevent scorching. Add the water and a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender but still slightly chewy, about 45 minutes. Add more water, ¼ cup at a time, if the barley becomes too dry. Do not drown the barley; all the water should be absorbed just as the barley is done. Drain the barley, if necessary. Set aside. 2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. 3. Remove the stems from the chard leaves and chop the stems into small pieces. Set aside. Plunge the chard leaves into the boiling water and stir so they all wilt as quickly and uniformly as possible. Cook just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Immediately drain the leaves and plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking. Working carefully to keep the leaves whole, remove them from the water and lay them out on paper towels. Dry them gently and lay them out on a work surface. 4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and reserved chard stems and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the barley and thyme. Stir in the ½ cup mozzarella and the Parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper. 5. Use the largest leaves first. Place a heaping tablespoonful of the barley mixture in the center of each leaf. Roll the leaf around the filling and tuck the edges under to make a neat package. The packages may be of different sizes because the leaves vary in size. Arrange the rolls in an 8-inch square baking pan, fitting them snugly against each other. Brush the rolls with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and the 2 tablespoons mozzarella. 6. Pour the broth around the rolls and bake until the rolls are hot throughout, about 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.


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