I love risotto, but I feel like a big starchy blob after eating it. But by making it with barley instead of rice, I can have my risotto and eat it too. Barley is a great source of soluble fiber, which can lower LDL cholesterol. So this really is comfort food you can feel comfortable with.
This vegan version is like springtime in a bowl, thanks to asparagus, mushrooms and -- added just before serving -- gremolata. (Gremolata, generally a mixture of parsley, raw garlic and lemon zest, is a frequent secret weapon in my cooking.)
The addition of some peas during the last few minutes of cooking would be a nice variation here. And, of course, if you're not cursed with high cholesterol like I am, some grated parmigiano reggiano would be delicious.
See more of my heart-healthy recipes on my blog, What Would Cathy Eat?
Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms
- 1 pound thickish asparagus, tough ends snapped off
- 2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 shallots, finely minced (I recommend pulsing in a food processor)
- 8 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 3 ounces shiitake or maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms, sliced
- 1 ½ cups pearled barley
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 6 cups vegetable broth, more if needed (use a gluten-free variety if you are gluten-sensitive)
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- Grated zest of one lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Preheat oven to 450. Toss the asparagus with 2 teaspoons oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. When cool, cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces.
- Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven.
- Add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the barley and cook for one minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until it is evaporated.
- Continue to add the broth in half-cup increments, stirring nearly constantly until each addition evaporates. Continue until the barley is tender but chewy, about 40 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (You will not need salt if you used a commercial broth.)
- Add the asparagus. Combine the parsley, basil, lemon zest and garlic, and add to risotto just before serving.