Monday, January 18, 2010

Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens

I admit it.  I find cooking soothing.  After a long day at work, I just wanted to come home and cook.  It doesn't matter that I have delicious leftovers in the fridge that need to be eaten or that I'm having people over for dinner this week, so I'll definitely be cooking later in the week.  The urge to cook is strong.  But what to make?  Guacamole that had been calling my name since the catered advisory committee lunch?  The tomato sauce recipe I found last night on SK?  Or risotto?  I chose that delicious combination of grains, cheese, and wine ... how could you not (especially after being tempted by the sight of foie gras risotto with shiitake mushrooms the night before!)?  I'd found a barley risotto recipe on SK a week or so ago and was tempted enough to buy pearl barley when I saw it at the Metro, secure in the knowledge that the barley would keep until I had time to try the recipe.  Then temptation struck, my office mate mentioned they were planning to make a lemon and asparagus risotto.  A lemon risotto recipe has been taunting me for months now and asparagus does sound like an inspired addition, but is not in season.  The compromise?  My original barley recipe adding in lemon at the end, substitute out the escarole in favour of the nutty goodness of arugula (yes, I know I have an arugula obsession), and use chick peas (originally I was planning on getting some use out of the dried pinto beans I have in the cupboards, but I think chick peas are better suited to this ... and they're cute!).  Add in a little garlic to the original recipe (yes, I finally got past my mental block and remembered to buy fresh garlic!) and we have a winner (perhaps with a little less lemon next time *** I've been told it's a lot of lemon.  I should note that the lemons I used were super tiny).  Maybe it can even be considered vaguely healthy?

Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens (inspired by Smitten Kitchen) (which was adapted generously from Food and Wine)


5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup pearled barley
1 can chick peas
3 cups arugula
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
juice and zest of 2 baby lemons (or 1/2 a lemon if you have big lemons)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes.
3. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
4. Add the wine and cook, stirring until absorbed, about one minute.
5. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time in six additions — you’ll have a cup of stock left in the pot — stirring until it is nearly absorbed between additions. Most barley risottos are done when the barley is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 35 minutes, however, I like to take this one a little “soupier” adding another half to one cup of stock. (This gives the beans something to drink up, and you a margin of error if your grains continue to absorb the stock once you think they are done.)
6. Stir it in until the risotto is on the loose side, then add the beans and let them cook for a minute.
7. Add the arugula and let it wilt and then cook for an additional minute. Add in lemon juice and zest.
8. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve at once, passing more cheese at the table.

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