Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barley-Mushroom Risotto

Normally, risotto is a rice dish (in fact, an Italian would say that you can't make risotto unless it's with rice). However, any grain that releases starch and absorbs liquid as it cooks can be made into risotto (or a least a risotto-like porridge). The barley and mushrooms in this recipe give the dish a earthy richness that is almost beefy. You could make this as a main dish for a light supper or it would go great as a side dish to almost any meat - especially steak!

  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I like the vegetable better)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups packed chopped spinach, kale, or other greens
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the good stuff, not from the green can!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (to taste) fresh ground black pepper

Bring broth to a boil in a saucepan or kettle. Reduce heat to low and keep it hot.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium high heat until shimmery. Add onion, mushrooms, and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms have browned and the onions are fully cooked. Add barley and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is almost completely absorbed. Add more broth 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly at a simmer until each addition is absorbed before adding the next 1/4 cup. After 20 minutes of this, add bell pepper and continue adding/stirring broth. There should be about 30 minutes total cooking time. When the last addition of broth goes in, add spinach and simmer until the spinach is cooked and the barley is tender. Stir in cheese and black pepper and serve.

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