Barley's great, it's a whole grain. I admit, I've only used it in soups/stews/casseroles, I've never eaten it on its own as a side dish in its own right.
If you're tired of plain white rice, you can also try:
* Brown rice
* Polenta (made with ground corn, which is also a whole grain). You can eat it kind of soft. I like to buy the stuff in the tube
and pan fry it with a little PAM until it's crispy (I finish it off under the broiler for a minute or two for extra crispiness)
* Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), one of the only vegetables that is a complete protein containing all amino acids, it has a nutty taste and a cute little "tail" on each grain
* Whole grain couscous - it's actually a pasta, it cooks super fast which I like
* Wild rice - not actually a rice at all, it's a grass (!) but nutty and yummy
Another great side dish is a baked sweet potato. One of my absolute favorite things to eat. I bake them in the oven for over an hour, so they get really soft and the skin caramelizes with all the sugar. I won't go so far as to say it tastes like dessert, but it tastes really sweet and delicious to me.
You could also cube up some summer squash and saute it with a little olive oil and garlic!
benefits of barley