Monday, January 22, 2007

Is it still risotto if you don't use rice?

Well we hoped for a bit more snow, but we ended up with about an inch - Jeff even called his work's "hotline" to see if, for some reason they decided to tell people to stay home... he was a little disappointed when that was not the case! I felt tonight's dinner, Barley Risotto with Roasted Winter Vegetables, was fitting given the weather we've had over the past couple of days.

While there are a few steps to this dish, it ends up coming together pretty fast as you are working on separate parts at the same time. Parsnips, cauliflower and red bell peppers are first roasted until tender and they turn a light golden color. While these roast, onions are lightly browned in olive oil, followed by the additions of pearl barley and chicken stock. At this point, unlike traditional risotto, you do not need to constantly stir while it goes through the initial cooking - it is left alone to simmer until the barley absorbs the broth. The last cup or so of chicken broth is constantly stirred in once the barley is al dente to give it that creamy edge - however, it just won't be like a rice risotto as far as texture goes. Parmigiano-Reggiano and the roasted veggies are then mixed in and once plated, each serving gets a few toasted chopped pecans, a scattering of more fresh grated cheese and a sprinkle of parsley. I loved the crunch that the toasted pecans added to the tender and somewhat creamy barley along with the chunky golden roasted vegetables which brought a natural depth to the dish. I was not sure if I would like the sweeter parsnips here, but Jeff and I both enjoyed them. My only issue was with the cheese - I'm definitely in the "more cheese please" crowd, but our Parmigiano-Reggiano was almost a tad too sharp for us. It was a fairly higher-priced cheese than we would normally get, so it may be that we just are not used to its strength - I would reduce it a tad if we used it again.


  1. Joe--if you find the parmigiano reggiano too sharp--which high end ones are--you might want to try a cheese called grana padano--I find it to be less sharp. I love both and grew up with the really sharp parmigiano reggiano--which we snacked on.

    Hope that helps!


  2. I just saw a recipe in the new Michel Richard cookbook that was for a potato risotto. Both yours and his look very good.

  3. Thanks for posting this recipe. I made it just a few hours after I got the post. I was looking for something to go along with tonight's planned pork tenderloin and this was perfect. Michael and I roast vegetables a few times a week already, so this was right up our alley. We just added some green pepper to the mix with the red pepper. This was easy to make and very delicious. Surprisingly creamy. Goes together pretty fast. We of course thought of many variations...using carrots, adding some herbs, different stocks, etc. Great recipe, Joe.

  4. Tracey - I'll keep my eye out next time we go lookin' for cheese!

    Barbara - Potato risotto? It certainly sounds good!

    Paul R - Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad to hear it turned out well. I agree, I do want it try it with other vegetables to see how it comes out!