Tis the season for diets, green smoothies, and new running shoes. And if you’re looking to replace the carbs in your day with healthier options, then let me introduce you to barley, my favorite. Barley is like arborio rice’s cousin, making it perfect for risotto. And while the taste isn’t exactly the same (hint: it’s not supposed to be), barley holds its own as the star of this classic Italian dish.
I’ve been making this recipe for years. I first spotted it in an issue of Real Simple, and have been tweaking it ever since. This graces our table multiple times a year, most often in the spring, when asparagus is in season. But anytime I feel the need to lighten things up, it inevitably shows its face again. Like in this first week of January. This time around I used asparagus and peas, but I’ve used mushrooms and edamame before, too. Add anything green you that you like.
To make risotto for 4, you will need:
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 small onion, or 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 C pearl barley
- 1 C white wine
- 4 C chicken (or vegetable) stock
- 1 bunch asparagus, chopped in bite size pieces
- 5 oz. frozen peas
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
In heavy bottomed saucepan, saute onions in olive oil until soft, 5 minutes. Add barley, and stir till coated in oil. Toast grains for 2 minutes. Add white wine, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated. Over medium heat, add stock by the 1/2 cupful, continuing to stir slowly. Add more stock each time liquid is almost gone. When adding the last bit of stock, stir in asparagus and peas, and cook till grains have the slightest bit of bite left in them. Off the heat, stir in zest and cheese. If you’re feeling decadent, and don’t care that this dish has nutritional value, place 2 or 3 pats of butter atop the dish, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and let it melt on down through the nooks and crannies in the risotto. Remove the cover, give things a final stir, and serve in large bowls. But that butter thing is completely optional. If it doesn’t jive with your new year’s resolution, forget I even suggested it.