Meatless Monday: Barley risotto

We’ve made quite a few resolutions for 2016 over here in regards to eating and food. A big one is to add Meatless Monday back into our week.

(If you haven’t heard of the Meatless Monday movement, which promotes skipping meat one whole day a week, you can read about it here.)

I like to think we don’t eat a ton of meat, but either turkey or chicken make an appearance at most of our dinners and lunches. So today, on the first Monday of the new year, Mike and I had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and, for dinner, I dug out my tried-and-true recipe for barley risotto.

It had to have been 1998 when I caught a variation of this recipe on a Canadian cooking show during my lunch hour. The barley was intriguing, but I’d unfortunately missed the part of the show where they listed all of the ingredients and the amounts for each. I’ve been guessing ever since.

In my limited experience, working with barley is more forgiving and less stressful than making traditional risotto with Arborio rice. Maybe because it’s barley, the least assuming and most down-to-earth of all grains? Who knows. But like any risotto, this dish does take some time — allow at least an hour from start to finish.

Barley Risotto

BARLEY RISOTTO

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped (I prefer white, but yellow would be fine)
1 red pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (I use a garlic press, because I’m lazy)
4-5 large mushrooms, chopped (white mushrooms are fine, or a mixture)
3/4 cup barley, which ends up being about 2 cups cooked (I use quick barley)
2 cups stock (I’ve used beef, chicken and, today, vegetable)
white wine (one of those small bottles from a four pack is perfect)

Instructions
1. Melt butter and heat oil together in a large pan over medium-high heat.

2. Add onion, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper, cook another 5 minutes. Add the garlic; when it’s fragrant, add the mushrooms.

3. When the mushrooms are soft, stir in the cooked barley.

4. Warm the stock (on the stovetop or in the microwave for about 30 seconds) and add 1/3 to a 1/2 cup to your pan. Stir until it’s been absorbed. Add more stock, then stir some more. Repeat until you’re out of stock.

5. Use the same method for the wine (except don’t heat it first). When all liquid has been absorbed, you’re good to go. Serve alone or with your favorite veggie — I did baby spinach sautéed in olive oil with basil tonight.

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