Saturday, February 25, 2012

Asparagus "Risotto" with Barley

I love risotto. It is often my meal of choice at an Italian restaurant. However, I never make it at home. It is pretty labour intensive with adding the stock one ladle at a time. Just enough work to deter me on a weeknight.

I picked up some barley on the weekend. Although not terribly exotic, it is new to me! I am trying to experiment with new grains. I have been stuck in a rice and pasta rut and am blown away by the number of interesting grains you can get. I came across some recipes that substituted pearl barley for Arborio rice and thought about taking a risotto recipe and trying it with barley.  I settled on an asparagus and lemon risotto.  Once neat trick to use when preparing asparagus is that it has a natural break point.  This is where the woody part of the speer separates from the more tender part.  If you just bend it near the bottom of the speer, it will break at a given point

This recipe used two pots (the fewer the better!) and after you've sautéed the asparagus and got the barley going, you were all but done! I loved the texture of the barley and can see using it place of Arborio rice in any variety of risotto recipes.

Adapted from Lisa Calder at Food Network

Asparagus "Risotto" with Barley

1 bunch asparagus (~10 speers)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 small onion, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup pearl barley
Salt and pepper
1/2 lemon, juice and zest

Snap asparagus at that natural break point. Chop the asparagus speers into small pieces. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan. Add the asparagus and sauté for around 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and the garlic and continue to sauté until asparagus is tender (5-10 more minutes). Set this aside.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and cook onion until soft and translucent. Add barley and stir for 1 minute. Stir in winer and reduce until almost dry. Add 2 cups stock and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil then simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in the asparagus. Finish with salt and pepper to taste, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Make 2 servings as a main and 4 side dishes.

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