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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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.

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Tomato Coconut Curry Soup

Music: Cat Power, You are Free – This album is perfect for a lazy night of cooking.  As you will see in the recipe, there is a lot of down time.  I spent this time soaking in this album and enjoying Marshall’s sultry voice and poetic lyrics. There’s even some surprise vocals from Eddie Vedder on this album.  Anyone else into Cat Power? Any other album recommendations??

Menu: Soup topped with lime cilantro roasted chickpeas

Recently, we went out to eat at Watercourse Foods (yummm) with some super friends.  I have recently taken up this “gluten-free thing” to see if it helps with some other health issues.  As you may have inferred from the previous sentence, I’m not too thrilled about this “thing”.  For those of you who know me personally, know that I love my gluten.  Possibly my most favorite food item in the whole wide world is garlic bread.  I haven’t had garlic bread…in a really long time…sigh. 

So, when I had this tomato soup at Watercourse, I thought, “now this is a soup that doesn’t need garlic bread!” I must say it is heart-breaking to make tomato soup with out a hunk of crunchy, garlicky bread to soak it up. A few of us at the table got this soup and we all fell in love.  So much so, that one of us asked the waiter what was in it. His response was something like, “ummm tomato, curry, and coconut milk (duh was implied).” And of course, I thought I can’t wait to make this at home with whole spices to try to really boost the flavor.  That is precisely what I did!

You can see the seeds toasting: I selected cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and a touch of mustard seeds.  You can grind them in a spice or coffee grinder or have fun with your hands and do it with a mortar and pestle (courtesy of the husband for xmas!). I made my base of aromatics with the classic Indian/curry mixture – onion, chile, garlic, and ginger.  I browned the onions very deeply (this isn’t a good picture, sorry!).  This is the start of all the flavor.  If you have the time, spend a good 25 minutes browning the onions.  Then add the rest of your aromatics. 

Sometimes, I use a small food processor when cooking Indian to help reduce the time chopping.  However, if I have the time, I love to chop and mince ingredients.  It’s part of the reason I think cooking is so relaxing.  Many people report that running is relaxing because of the repetition of footsteps (along with many of other things…), and I think that’s what cooking does for me.  Once you become comfortable in the kitchen, it is repetition, especially knife skills.  Just writing this is making my wrists ache to get back in the kitchen and do some chopping…

Anyways, back to the soup!  The crunchy cabbage really adds to the soup and is part of the reason garlic bread is not entirely necessary for this tomato soup.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t aching for it the entire time I cooked this soup. I did, however, come up with the brilliant idea to top this soup with something equally as crunchy as garlic bread…roasted chickpeas! So, I took what I planned on topping the soup with, lime juice and cilantro, and tossed that with very crunchy, roasted chickpeas, for a supremely satisfying crunch.

By the way, who needs cream when you have coconut milk?!?!  The coconut milk was such a perfect addition to this soup.  It made the spicy,  flavorful tomato soup base, rich, creamy, and slightly sweet. 

Funny side story about how awesome this soup is: We had to leave for the weekend and my sister came over to dog and chicken-sit for a few days. One of the mentioned perks of pet sitting for us is that I try to leave lots of good food stocked 🙂 So, I got a text soon after we left that went something like this, “what the hell is in the soup?!? it’s rocking my world!!!!” I took it as a compliment that my rip-off of this Watercourse soup was a complete success 🙂

Tomato Coconut Curry Soup
Inspired by Watercourse Foods, Denver, CO

Ingredients:

  • 1 TB cumin seeds
  • 1 TB coriander seeds
  • 1 tspn. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tspn. brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tspn. tumeric
  • OR sub the whole toasted seeds for 2  – 3 TB curry powder
  • Ghee or coconut oil (around 2 TB)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large serrano pepper, minced (or hot pepper of your choice)
  • 5 – 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 piece of ginger, large gnarly spots, peeled, minced (I like to keep most of the skin on)
  • 2 – 28 oz. cans of tomatoes (your choice of type – I think I did one crushed and one diced)
  • 1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced (I like it chunkier, but feel free to shred for a thinner result)
  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat is just better)
  • 1 batch of lime-cilantro roasted chickpeas

Directions:

  1. Place all seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Toast for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and seeds have darkened. Remove from heat and ground spices.  You can do this by spice/coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Add tumeric and stir to combine.
  2. In large dutch oven, heat ghee or oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and  cook until brown and smelling delicious, at least 10 minutes and up to 35 minutes. 
  3. Add pepper, garlic, and ginger.  Stir to incorporate and cook for 2 minutes. 
  4. Add ground spices (or curry powder).  Stir to incorporate and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate.  Once mixture comes to a simmer, turn heat down to medium-low and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes.  You can speed this process up if on a time crunch, but the longer it simmers, the more time the flavors have to come together.  
  6. Once soup has simmered for a while, add cabbage.  Stir in and let cabbage soften in soup.  If you like your cabbage still pretty crunchy, this will only take 3 minutes or so.  If you like the cabbage a bit more soft, you can allow it to simmer in the soup for up to 15 minutes.  
  7. When the cabbage is done to your liking.  Turn heat off and add coconut milk.  Stir until soup is creamy and milk is completely dispersed in soup. Taste and season with S &P, if needed.
  8. Top with chickpeas (or garlic bread if you are so lucky, but please don’t tell me if you do…) and devour.