I know, I know, I know. Is there anything that requires more patience than risotto? Well, perhaps, but I always wonder to myself if my risotto will be worth the time spent stirring, stirring, stirring, slowly pouring, stirring, stirring, pouring, stirring.
You get the point.
This risotto, however, is different. It's still creamy. It's still flavourful. It's still everything good about risotto. It does not require the home chef to stand at the stove for an hour slowly watching special rice cook. That's right folks, cre
amy risotto with neither arborio rice nor its unappreciated cooking methods. What's the bonus? Using barley instead of arborio yields an increase of 6 g fiber and a decrease of 50 calories per cup. Plus it's more nutritious, has a lower glycemic index, and will keep you full longer. Bingo. Here's the goods:
Barley Risotto with Lemon and Asparagus
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped and rinsed well
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken/vegetable stock)
1 cup pearled barley
1 pound asparagus
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook for 2 minutes, until starting to soften. Add barley and stir to coat in oil. Cook 2 minutes. Add wine or broth and stir occasionally until wine is absorbed. Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a slight simmer; very slight. You don't want this baby to burn. Cover and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. If the water is gone but the barley isn't soft, add 1 cup water and cook 10 minutes more. While the risotto is cooking (without you stirring it!) chop the ends and tips off the asparagus. Save the woody ends for making stock, and set the tips aside. Cut the remaining asparagus stalks into 1" pieces and put in a covered microwave safe bowl. Cook for 2 minutes, just until starting to get tender. If you're not ready to use them, blanche in cold water to stop them from cooking. After barley is soft, add the asparagus and salt and mix well. Over the next 5-10 minutes, gradually stir in 1 cup water. This is how your risotto gets awesome creamy without the slow-release starch and long-stirring slog of the arborio. Remove from heat. Add parmesan, lemon juice and zest, mint, and pepper. Taste and add more lemon juice if you need it (I did.) Sprinkle a little more parmesan over the top and serve this to those you love the most.
No asparagus? It's amazing without it too, just ask Liz.