This recipe can be adapted for any season with whatever seasonal produce is on hand. Instead of eggplant, try zucchini in the summer or mushrooms in the fall.
- Thoroughly rinse fresh produce under warm running water for 20 seconds. Scrub to remove excess dirt.
- Put barley in a pot with water, stock, parsley sprig, a good pinch of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until barley is slightly undercooked, 25 to 30 minutes. (Barley will be cooked further later.)
- While barley is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add garlic and thyme and cook until garlic begins to brown. Add shallots and poblano pepper. Cook, stirring, until pepper softens and shallots start to caramelize. Add eggplant and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.
- Cook for a few minutes. Add cumin and paprika, cook for 1 minute, then add bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Mix well and cook until eggplant softens, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and cook until the consistency is syrupy. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove parsley sprig and bay leaf from barley, then add semicooked barley, along with any cooking liquid left in the pot, to eggplant mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until barley is al dente, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro and remaining 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, heat through, and serve. Paella should register 145 degrees Fahrenheit or higher using an instant-read thermometer placed in the middle of the dish.