Robust Barley Risotto

Barley, a hearty, robust grain, has always been more popular in Europe than in the U.S., in large part because American tastes run to wheat. But with its slightly chewy texture and more than slightly pungent taste, barley is often used with big-flavored dishes such as lamb stew and mushroom soup.

Barley Risotto recipe that follows is much lower in fat than traditional risottos.

Barley bits

  • Barley can be chewy, so it’s typically included in soups and stews, rather than used as a stand-alone ingredient in side dishes.
  • A little barley goes a long way; 1 cup dried expands to about four times that size during cooking.
  • Most barley found in supermarkets is called pearl barley — that is, it has been refined, leaving behind only the “pearl” from the center of the grain. In health food stores, however, you can buy whole, hulled barley. This contains higher levels of fiber and other nutrients.
  • Whole barley is jaw-achingly tough, so it should be soaked overnight before cooking.
  • While overnight soaking isn’t really necessary for preparing pearl barley, some cooks do it anyway to make the kernels fluffier.
  • The quick-cooking form of barley is both tender and quick to prepare. It’s ready in about 10 minutes and is perfectly suitable for pilafs and other side dishes.
Per serving:
Calories: 463
Fat: 10.4 g. (20% of calories)
Protein: 20.2 g.
Carbohydrates: 75.6 g.
Fiber: 15.1 g.
Cholesterol: 10 mg.
Sodium: 538 mg.
Makes: 4 servings
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and halved crosswise
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • 4-5 cups defatted reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 cups barley
  • 1/4 cup chopped Nicoise olives
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh marjoram

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.

Sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt and pepper. Coat a no-stick baking sheet with no-stick spray. Place the tomatoes, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast for 6 to 7 hours. Remove from the oven, chop and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the broth and water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low. Maintain the broth at a simmer.

In another medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the barley and sauté for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the broth mixture. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed.

Continue to add the broth mixture in 1/2-cup increments. Stirring occasionally, cook until each addition of liquid has been absorbed. Continue until the barley is soft. (This should take approximately 30 to 40 minutes. You may not need all of the broth mixture.) Remove from the heat.

Set aside one-quarter of the tomatoes and one-quarter of the olives.

Stir the Parmesan, marjoram, the remaining tomatoes and the remaining olives into the barley mixture. Divide among serving bowls and sprinkle with the reserved tomatoes and olives.

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