Barley and Bean “Risotto”

May 4, 2011 at 9:06 am 1 comment

It is Wednesday morning… know what that means? Recipes and pictures from another fantastic roommate dinner! We have both been free three Tuesdays in a row – we are on a roll! Think we can keep it up for a fourth? As we enjoyed our experimental “risotto” and snacked on watermelon for dessert, I helped my roommate list out the recipes that she knows well and feels comfortable with. She is relatively new to cooking and is good at the ten things she knows how to make, but feels like she is stuck in a rut. We brainstormed ways for her to become more adventurous in the kitchen, which gave me inspiration for a blog post! (I cannot promise when this will happen, but sometime soon, I hope to write some ideas that we came up with as advice for beginner cooks. If you have any specific questions or things you would like addressed, comment below!) We also decided that roommate dinners from now on will morph into quasi-cooking lessons to help expand her recipe repertoire. I am looking forward our little experiment.

I called dinner Barley and Bean “Risotto” because it is loosely inspired by the traditional Italian rice dish. I love the creaminess of a well-made risotto, but wanted to find a way to make it a little more whole-grain-healthy (Arborio, the traditional risotto rice, is a short, white rice variety – not a whole grain!) I had seen some recipes for barley or farro risotto instead, and so I decided to experiment. The end result was delicious, but not quite a risotto. The barley is a little chewier than rice, but still a really unique and great texture. I would definitely make this again, especially because it is a great way to clear out some of your sadder-looking leafy greens. The greens I got as part of my Boston Organics box last week were unidentifiable – kale? chard? collard greens? Doesn’t matter! Throw whatever you have on hand in!

Watermelon reminds me of spring and summer, just like the flowers in bloom all around Boston! There are a few pictures of pretty tulips in Kenmore Square to brighten your day :) Our watermelon dessert was a gift from our upstairs neighbors. They are funny people – friendly and chatty when they want to be, but unpredictable in their mood. Anyway, I am glad to at least know my neighbors – the last apartment I lived in was so transient that I lived there for 2 years without knowing anyone in my building other than my roommate. To thank them, we made a little card to tape to their back door. A simple papercraft, but hopefully another step in building a relationship with them.

Question: Are you comfortable in the kitchen? What are some things that draw you to cooking, or prevent you from experimenting in the kitchen more often? These questions are meant for you guys! Comment below to let me know your thoughts on cooking, and things you would like to see on my blog that might help you become more comfortable making healthy and home-cooked dinners!

Barley and Bean “Risotto”

1 cup dried white beans (or 1 can of white beans, drained)

3 bay leaves (if using dried beans)

2 small onions

1-2 tsp minced garlic, depending on your taste

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup barley

1 can tomato soup (not condensed kind, and better if low-sodium)

1 can vegetable broth

2 bunches of leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, etc.)

1 tsp basil

Cover white beans with water. Add bay leaves and boil for about 10 minutes, and then reduce heat and let continue to cook until beans are soft – about an hour.

Chop the onion and saute with garlic and olive oil. In a separate pot, bring tomato soup and vegetable broth to a low boil. When the onions are soft, add the barley and stir until well coated. Add about 2/3 cup broth mixture. Allow barley to cook until liquid is absorbed, like you would do for a traditional risotto. Add another 1/3 cup of liquid and allow to absorb. Continue this process until all of the liquid has been added to and absorbed by the barley. (This process should be done slowly while stirring pretty constantly so the barley has time to cook all the way). Drain the cooked beans and add to the barley mixture. Add the rinsed and chopped greens (they will be voluminous at first but they’ll cook down!) and turn down the heat. Season to taste with basil, salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan.

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