Mushroom Barley Risotto

>> Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mushroom Barley Risotto

With all the crazy wedding planning that’s been happening ever since we got back from our respective stag / stagette trips, I’ve been finding it tough to have the time to sit down and write a blog about all the interesting things that have been baking and cooking in my kitchen (plus I was still hoping to do a few more NY food reviews, then there’s the Calgary restaurants backlog, let’s not go there shall we?). So how did I manage to finally get around to posting this one? Well it’s called procrastination! Let’s see, I could be reviewing wedding plans or blogging about food, easy question…food wins every time, plus I should probably start posting something "fit" on the blog after all the indulgence as of late.

Of course if you’re pressed for time like I am lately you’ll find ways around making dinner without it taking an eon just to prep your ingredients and then trying to pull everything together. I have always found that one of the easiest things to cook, but still manages to give off the ‘ooo’ factor is risotto, possibly because its constantly touted as being time consuming and is featured on all the fancy restaurant menus and plastered all over food network (we all know what a food network addict I am, if you were procrastinating you would be too). In reality though, risottos are probably one of the easiest things to make when you don’t really have much around the house because anything can go in to a risotto and better yet, it can be made healthy!

Instead of using the traditional Arborio rice for risotto you can often substitute it with brown rice or even grains. I personally like barley. It still gives off the appearance of a true risotto without losing much of the texture. My version is made with mushrooms because we had a huge lot sitting around the fridge, but I’ve tried it with peas, carrots or even asparagus and it’s just as delicious!

Nutritional Tidbit: Barley is classified as a grain and like all other grains, they can be found hulled or not. Barley still with the hull, pot barley or less polished barley, provides more fibre and is considered more heart healthy than hulled barley or pearl barley which has the outer shell polished off. Barley is also high in beta glucan (in addition to all that fibre), which helps in lowering cholesterol!

Mushrooms are chalk full of B vitamins, minerals and they're low in calories, perfect when incorporated in to a healthy balanced diet. Mushrooms like all other veggies and fruits are healthier for you when prepared fresh as opposed to using the canned version, but if you're in a bind, using canned mushrooms is better than nothing. Just make sure that the sodium levels aren't too high, which usually is the case for processed canned items.

We can even do a trade, if somebody is willing to plan my wedding, I’ll make them risotto!

Mushroom Barley Risotto Recipe

1 onion diced
1 cup barley, pot or pearl doesn’t really matter
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup shitake mushrooms chopped
1 cup cremini mushrooms chopped
1 cup portabello mushrooms chopped
1 cup oyster mushrooms chopped
Salt and pepper

Place pot over medium heat; add in a bit of canola oil to coat. Stir in onions and sauté until golden yellow.

Add in the barley, stir for about 30 seconds and pour in the white wine. Let simmer for 2 mins while stirring.

Pour in half of the chicken stock (1 cup) and place the lid on the pot until it comes to a boil, turn heat down to med-low and allow the barley to simmer (approx. 30-35 mins), stir occassionally.

Check on the barley every 5-10 mins, when the liquid seems to be absorbed add a bit more stock in and stir. If stock is out and the barley still seems a bit hard, you can use water and stir (starting to see a trend?). Avoid adding too much chicken stock or else the risotto will be salty.

Once the barley is roughly al-dente, pour in the mushrooms and cover with lid, let simmer for 5 mins, keep adding water if risotto is sticking to bottom of pot, yup and stir.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm as a side or even as an entrée, sprinkled with parsley and lemon over top!

*I’ve found that this goes great with salmon, simply sear the it with salt and pepper or you can get fancy and use different spices to create a salmon all your own.


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