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  • Barley Risotto with Spring Vegetables

    Monday, June 27, 2011

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    Risotto is one of my favorite dishes. It’s often my ‘go-to’ meal when having friends over for dinner (especially if they are vegetarian). It’s easy to make (with a little practice), affordable and provides a great foundation for being creative! Some of my favorite risotto recipes have been acorn squash, which I made with just a drizzle of sage brown butter and seafood risotto with several kinds of shell fish and a touch of saffron.

    I found myself craving risotto recently but didn’t want the big downside to the main ingredient—-arborio (or ‘risotto rice’) is essentially refined white rice. So, I decided to try making mock risotto using pearl barley. For those of you who only enjoy barley as the result of the instrumental role it plays in brewing beer, barley has other (equally yummy) possibilities as a delicious and nutritious whole grain. It has a wonderful chewy texture and can taste a little nutty if you heat it in a little olive oil before cooking with it. It’s really easy to find in any supermarket (typically called ‘pearl barley’). Also, it’s worth noting that barley is NOT gluten free.

    Armed with a fresh bag of barley, I headed to the veggie aisle to find some treasures to incorporate into my dish. I quickly discovered some beautiful spring asparagus, leeks, and sweet peas just calling out to be the star of the dish. Fresh local Parmesan cheese, lemon and tarragon would round out the flavors.

    If you have not cooked with or eaten barley, this recipe might be a little tricky in terms of determining ‘doneness’, since barley has a chewy texture when cooked properly. If you follow the cooking times I suggest, you should have a delicious and hearty meal in no time!

    © 2011 Nancy Granada Kindred Kitchen

    Barley Risotto with Spring Vegetables

    servings: 3-4 | time: about 40 minutes

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    1 32-ounce container low sodium organic vegetable broth
    1 1/3 cup water
    3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
    1 TBSP butter
    1 small leek (white and light green parts only), chopped (be sure to wash the leek thoroughly, especially between the ‘petals’)
    2 cloves garlic (or 1 large)
    1 1/2 cups pearl barley
    1/2 cup dry white wine (such as chardonnay)
    1 1/2 cups chopped asparagus (1-inch pieces)
    2/3 cup fresh peas, shelled (or use frozen)
    2 tsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
    1 TBSP fresh grated lemon peel
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (you could easily use less and still have a nice creamy dish)
    Handful of fresh parsley, chopped


    1. Heat the vegetable broth and water in a saucepan, keeping it on low heat to maintain temperature just below a simmer

    2. Heat the EVOO and butter in a large Dutch oven or saucier pan (tip–risotto can get pretty sticky, so be sure to use a flat end wooden spoon, which will be easier for serving and clean-up)

    3. Add leek and garlic, saute for 3 minutes

    4. Add barley, saute for 2 minutes

    5. Add white wine and cook for 2-3 minutes, until most of the wine is absorbed

    6. Add about 1/2 cup of the warm broth (a large ladle is usually around 1/2 cup)

    7. Cook barley over medium heat (light simmer), until almost all of the broth is absorbed

    8. Continue to add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, simmering until almost all of the broth is absorbed after each addition, for about 25 minutes. Be sure to taste along the way so you can gauge the doneness)

    9.  After about 25 minutes, add the asparagus. Continue adding broth in stages for another 2 minutes

    10.  Add peas, tarragon and lemon peel. Continue adding broth in stages for another 3 minutes

    11. Taste barley for doneness (it should be chewy and firm, but not at all crunchy)

    12. Remove from heat and add cheese, stirring until melted

    13. Add parsley and serve in large bowls


    2 responses to “Barley Risotto with Spring Vegetables”

    1. Anonymous says:

      This is the second time I have made this recipe and it wasn’t a one hit wonder. Absolutely DELICIOUS again! It has officially been ear marked as a go-to meal during the week. My family loves it. I love it. The leftovers keep getting better. Veggies sneak in. What more could you want?

    2. Nancy Granada says:

      so glad you love it….and that you’ve made it more than once! 🙂

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