Sunday, January 24, 2010

When Is Spring Coming? and Barley Risotto

I have great plans of being really good and only eating food in the right season and I usually do. But now I am getting anxious for the freshness and variety spring offers. Is it April yet? No, it is still January and so cold storage fruits and veg are still my best friends. Parsnips, apples, sweet potatoes and carrots are staples at our place right now. But I got a tease of what is to come and now I am getting anxious earlier than usual.

It has been warm enough that my ever prosperous mint is poking out some tender new leaves looking for spring. And thinking about mint made me think about all the thinks I like to eat with mint: fresh peas, asparagus, berries, stone fruits, and tomatoes. You can see how one thing leads to another. But sadly, the cold will come back and claim the life from those few mint leaves; leaving the roots underground to wait longer still. Oh, spring, where are you?

I am waiting; for the glorious display of foliage and fruit. In Sunday School today we were asked the question, "what things in the world denote the presence of a God to you?" My hand immediately shot up fresh with the hope of spring I mentioned my love of the good things of the earth. When we could be eating just simple, tasteless things to sustain our bodies, we don't have to. God gave us countless varieties of beans, peaches and herbs. Each one so perfect and complex and delicious; what a wonderful gift to "please the eye and gladden the heart" (D&C 59:18). That to me is a clear proof of a God. What do you think of?

However, it is still winter, so let us continue with more experiments with grains! This week was a roaring success with pearled barley. (The pearled makes it sound much more delicate, don't you think?) Don't be fooled, barley is one hearty grain and this risotto makes for one hearty dinner. And the family was so pleased with the results that they all had seconds and Justin happily took the leftovers for lunch the next day.

You can top your risotto with what ever suits you. I made some sautéed mushrooms and that was divine, but artichokes (go for frozen) would work well too.

Barley Risotto
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Deborah Madison

6 cups vegetable stock
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barly
3/4 cup dry white wine (or however you choose substitute it)
2 T. butter
1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley or thyme
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly milled pepper

Have the stock at a simmer. Heat the oil in a heavy wide pan or soup pot. Add the onion and garlic an cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the barley and cook for 1 minutes, stirring to coat the grains. Raise the heat a little and the wine, and cook, stirring frequently until the wine is nearly absorbed. Add 2 1/2 cups of the stock, cover the pot and simmer until the stock is nearly absorbed.

Now start adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring more or less constantly and waiting for each addition to be absorbed before adding more. After about 4 minutes the barley should be tender and the dish thick and creamy. You may not need to use the full amount of stock. Stir in the butter, cheese, half of the parsley and lemon juice to taste. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the remaining parsley.

Mushroom Topping

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 shallot or 3T. minced onion
2 T. butter
1 T. balsamic vinegar
handful of fresh thyme

Heat a small skillet. Add the butter, as the foam begins to subside add the shallot. When it begins to look tender- 2 minutes, add the mushrooms, cook until the release the liquid- about 8 minutes. If they begin to stick and brown too much add a little bit of water, stock, white wine or whatever you choose to scrape the fond up and continue cooking. When mushrooms have finished cooking add the vinegar and turn off the heat. Taste for salt and pepper and garnish with thyme. We adore this.

What do you like to do with barley?

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