Barley Risotto with Roasted Beets, Garlic, and Lemon

Barley risotto. Well first of all, you might know of our love affair with risotto. You can read about it here, here, here, and here. And not to be too repetitive, but yes, another beet risotto recipe. I promise you, if you can’t get with beets or risotto, you should try this and I guarantee it will convert you.

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It started with a recent trip to a farmer’s market a few towns over to scout out other vendors/farms and see some “competition”. While we were there, I saw some beautiful chioggia beets. I had just asked Farmer B what we wanted for dinner and he said something with beets, so really it was destiny.

I had a new bag of pearled barley (I can’t find whole barley anywhere, so I need to go order it from the Upstate Food Co-op) and an itching to cook something sophisticated. (After I put Farm Baby down for the night) I roasted the beet roots with olive oil, salt and pepper and then I thought while the oven is on, I might as well roast everything. So I threw some whole, unpeeled garlic cloves and a couple slices of lemon on the baking sheet and threw it in. I defrosted some homemade chicken stock, thank you Blondie (an old Red Star hen that we recently harvested), sliced an onion, threw on some tunes (Alabama Shakes) and got to cookin’!

If you just can’t get with the beets, please, please try barley in place of arborio rice next time you make risotto. The barley is nutty and chewy.The flavor and texture completely out-do arborio rice. I will say if you plan on a soft, delicate risotto, like this one, I might not use barley. It is hearty and the other ingredients need to stand up to it. You can use the below recipe as a guide to cooking the barley risotto, but if you don’t want to read the recipe and want the quick version: soak the barley (1-2 hours) and rinse very well, while you don’t need more liquid, it does take more time than rice, so plan for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Barley risotto doesn’t get creamy like arborio.

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Barley Risotto with Roasted Beets, Garlic, and Lemon


  • 1 bunch of chioggia beets with tops
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 2-4 slices of lemon,seeds removed
  • EVOO
  • S&P
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups pearled barley, soaked and rinsed very well
  • Fresh thyme, parsley, chives
  • 1 cup dry white wine (optional – if using reduce amount of stock)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 quarts of stock (I used about 5 cups) can be chicken, vegetable, mushroom, whatever you got and fits your diet


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Beets. Trim off the top greens, wash thoroughly, and slice into ribbons. Peel the root and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Spread on oiled baking sheet. Season with S&P.
  3. To the greased baking sheet, add the lemon slices, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with  EVOO. Place garlic cloves on a small sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with EVOO, S&P, set on baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Watch carefully as you don’t want the lemon to burn, but you do want a little color. I thought I would have to pull the lemons out before the beets were done, but they finished at the same time, around 20 minutes. Continue roasting the garlic cloves packet for another 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. When cool enough to handle. Squish garlic out of cloves and chop/mash. Set aside.
  4. While the beets roast, get out your risotto cooking pan. Set heat to medium, add EVOO. Once heated, add onion slices, season with salt, and saute until soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Add fresh thyme and parsley.
  5. Add barley. Turn heat to high. Toast for at least 3 minutes until the pan is dry and the aroma is nutty.
  6. Deglaze pan with wine or stock. Turn heat down to medium and let it simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock. Continue adding stock after the liquid is absorbed until barley is cooked, adjusting heat as needed to keep things simmering. This took me about 5 cups of stock and about 50 minutes. I keep a separate pot of simmering stock, right next to my risotto pan. This helps keep the risotto simmering and cuts down on time.
  7. About halfway through the cooking process (judging by the amount of liquid you have leftover) add chopped beet greens to pan. Continue cooking.
  8. Just before serving, add roasted garlic into risotto. Distribute evenly. Season with S&P.
  9. To serve, ladle risotto into bowls or onto a plate. Top each serving with a slice of lemon and fresh chives and parsley.
  10. To eat, smush (the technical term) lemon into risotto. Discard rind. Devour.

Note: We are steering clear of dairy currently, but I bet this would be divine with some fresh goat cheese on top.

Second note: Sorry for the crappy pictures. Taken at night with iphone. Never a great combo.

Beet Risotto

Music: Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon.  This album was released just after Joni won her first Grammy and contains the popular songs, Big Yellow Taxi and Woodstock.  Great album. 
If you haven’t noticed yet, we love risotto (check out other recent risotto recipes here and here).  If you haven’t ever made risotto or you are not yet convinced as to why you should venture to the dark side. let me sum it up for you:
  • One pot meal with endless possibilities for meat and veggie combos.
  • It’s different: it’s not pasta or a casserole.
  • Face it, it’s fancy…oh so fancy.
  • It’s cheap.  I get Arborio rice for $3.99/lb. in the bulk section and I use better than bouillon for the chicken stock, which combines with plain ol’ tap water.  That means the only thing costing you much is whatever you put into the risotto. 
  • As BJ puts it: “It’s one meal where it’s all about the journey AND the destination.”  

That was deep, BJ, but true.  If you are feeling like you need to cook and just stand at the stove top for a while, risotto is what you need to make.  It’s not high maintenance, but it requires a little love.

Another recent obsession has been finding a good beet recipe (a good one here and an okay one here).  I think I have finally found my favorite beet recipe, as well as the best way to prepare them.  A lot of recipe call for roasting the beets whole and peeling and dicing them after wards, which leaves your kitchen looking like a murder scene, really.  So, what’s worked for me is peeling and dicing the beets prior to roasting.  First, it cuts the cooking time down by almost half; and second, it’s a little easier clean up.  I got the idea from this article.

White risotto…

Pink risotto…

Red risotto.  Really red risotto.

Beet Risotto
Adapted from here and here.
  • 1 bunch of beets, peeled and diced into 1/4 – 1/2 inch cubes
  • EVOO
  • S & P
  • 4 large shallots, 2 halved and 2 chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tspn., dried thyme (if using fresh use 1 – 2 tspn.)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • Glug of white wine
  • 6 – 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 400. 
  2. On a foiled, greased baking sheet toss diced beets with EVOO and S & P.  Drizzle the four shallot halves with EVOO and lightly S & P.  Roast beets and shallot for 15 – 20 minutes, until shallots are lightly browned and beets are fork tender. Chop shallots and set aside. 
  3. In a large skillet, heat more EVOO.  Saute onion and chopped shallots until translucent. 
  4. Add roasted shallots, garlic and seasonings.  Saute another 1 – 2 minutes until combined.  
  5. Add rice to pan and cook for a good 2 minutes.  The rice will become opaque and smell slightly nutty.  
  6. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Let the wine cook down until no liquid is left.  
  7. Add about 1 – 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and let the liquid cook down, stirring once in a while.  
  8. Continue adding chicken stock after each previous addition cooks down.  
  9. After the chicken stock is almost out and rice is almost done, add beets to pan.  Stir to combine and continue adding chicken stock until rice is tender and done.  
  10. Turn off heat and add cheese.  Stir to combine and serve!

Squash Blossom Risotto

Music: Aram Khachaturian, “Spartacus” – a little classical for this classy meal
Menu: Kale “chips” as an appetizer and then this yummy risotto!

For those of you who have never seen a zucchini plant, it produces these beautiful orange flowers. I first learned that you could eat them from a woman that I play volleyball with. She is originally from Mexico and told me about flower quesadillas, which are the most amazing things you will ever eat. I mentioned that I was growing a zucchini plant and she got really intense and said, YOU MUST EAT THE FLOWER.

Then I came across the entry from the NYT blog, Bitten – perfecto! Most classic recipes call for stuffing and frying the flower, which is all good and fine, but just for a flower?? I wanted something simple and basic so that I could taste the flower and savor eating the most beautiful part of my massive plant.

So make your basic, favorite risotto base and add the flower, chopped at the end as your stir in some parm.

Just keep stirring, just keep stirring, stirring, stirring…

And what a perfect snack as the risotto cooks – kale chips! They are wonderful little things. Crunchy and full of flavor. I recommend making some for the week. I always get cravings for crunchy, salty snacks. If I haven’t packed nuts to munch on, it usually means a potato chip run after lunch :/ But with these on hand, I’m getting my fix, plus some nutrients with it!

Squash Blossom Risotto
Adapted from Bitten, NYT food blog


  • 3 TB butter, divided
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • S & P
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups of Arborio rice
  • 6 – 8 cups chicken stock, simmering
  • 3 – 4 fresh squash blossoms
  • 2 handfuls parmigiano-reggiano cheese


  1. Heat large skillet to medium-high heat and melt 2 TB butter.
  2. Add green onions and saute until lightly browned. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (30 seconds – 1 minute).
  3. Add Arborio rice and cook and stir until grains become translucent, about 2 minutes. Season with S & P.
  4. Increase heat to high and carefully add wine. Reduce back to medium-high after a minute or so. Let wine cook down, until the liquid almost evaporates. Begin adding chicken stock in 1/2 – 1 cup increments, stirring every couple of minutes, and let each batch cook down until you need to add more.
  5. When stock is about halfway gone, add flowers. Continue with liquid.
  6. When stock is gone or rice is cooked (no bite to grain) to a creamy consistency, add cheese and remaining TB of butter, stirring to incorporate.
  7. Serve immediately!

Kale “Chips”
Adapted from various sources, just google it…


  • 1 bunch kale
  • EVOO
  • Kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 250.
  2. Wash and dry leaves. Cut the tough stem out of the middle of each leaf and tear into chip and bite-sized pieces.
  3. Toss kale with EVOO and kosher salt.
  4. Transfer to baking sheets in one single layer and flatten.
  5. Bake for 25 – 35 mintues, depending on flatness of leaf. Keep an eye on them!! If they burn they can taste a little chalky, but if they don’t cook enough they are a little chewy!
  6. Munch.

Clemson Risotto (for Joey!)

Music: Corey Smith, “In the Mood” – A southern man for a southern inspired meal
This is all you need folks! If you need some protein, just add some chopped cooked chicken and you got yourself a one pot meal.

So, I made this months back and just getting around to posting it now. Here’s how it went: I had a butternut squash, some Arborio rice and no idea what to do for dinner. There was 3 inches of snow on the ground and hell if I was gonna walk to the grocery store for dinner. We make risotto quite a bit. Risotto with cheese, peas, asparagus, meat, you name it we have made it. Except for butternut squash. I know, I know, this is a popular combo, but I had not made it quite yet. I always start risotto with onion. And when I saw the lone red onion, I thought, “Oh, No.” Red onion in risotto…how un-elegant. But it was all I had (and again, damned if I was gonna go to the store). So, I began my butternut squash risotto with red onion. A wonderful creation emerged, just for my brister 😉 So, here you go Joey. When you meet that special lady and she doesn’t believe your total and utter obsession with Clemson (I don’t think that this is a hard concept to get as all she would need to do is be in the room while watching you watch a Clemson sporting event…ANY sporting event…even a gymnastics competition would do…) just make this for her. Actually, scratch that. She might run the other direction when your meals start to resemble Clemson, too. So, Joey, this one is just for you. And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll be in the same state long enough for me to make it for you, bro.

Clemson Risotto
an Amanda original


  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • S & P
  • 1 tspn, dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 – 6 cups chicken stock, simmering (have on the back burner on low heat, don’t boil, but just barely simmer)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded, plus more for garnish
  • Parsley for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cut butternut squash lengthwise into two pieces. Scoop and seeds and membrane. Peel (not as easy as it sounds, people, make sure you have a good peeler or you’re in for a long peeling). Cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place squash on baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO and S & P. Roast for about 12 – 15 minutes until lightly browned, turning once or twice. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add EVOO and then add onion once you can smell the oil (this means the oil is heated through). Saute onion for 5 – 8 minutes until translucent, but not browned.
  4. Add garlic, S &P, and thyme and saute 30 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add rice and constantly stir for about 2 minutes, The rice grains will become clear on the outside.
  6. Deglaze pan with wine and cook until almost all liquid has evaporated.
  7. Add about 1 – 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock – enough liquid to come to the top of the rice. Stir and let liquid cook down. Repeat this process: add liquid and stir in. Cook down until liquid is almost gone and add more. Continue this process until rice is done: soft and velvety, not chewy – about 25 – 35 minutes.
  8. When you add your last batch of liquid or just after, add butternut squash and stir to combine (its okay if you add too early, just be careful to not squish the squash as you stir and if you add to late, no worries!)
  9. Turn off heat and stir in parmesan.
  10. Serve in big bowls with parmesan and parsley to top.