Barley risotto with zucchini and walnuts
This versatile grain, mixed with vegetables and nuts, will fill you up on cold winter days.
Barley is such a winterish grain. It’s hearty and comfortingly chewy/soft, good in soup and stew. But barley sometimes shows in a surprisingly versatile light. Whoever thought of making risotto from barley?
More than possible, it’s delicious, and right for eating when you come in from a cold, gray day, and you’ve been fighting gusts of wind that turn your umbrella inside out, and your darned boots let puddles seep in, and you just want to be home and dry.
Whew! Will barley take care of all those woes? Actually, yes, if you will it so. Neither stock nor toasted nuts take much work, so it’s worth making them the day before to have at the ready.
Being bland, barley begs for some buttressing. Or did I mean, butter? Or sharper tastes, like wine, onion, lemon, cheese?
Yes, to all of the above. Welcome to barley risotto.
- 2 medium zucchini, about 2 cups when coarsely chopped
- 5 cups vegetable stock or water, hot
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper (more to taste)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 1/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup toasted, partially crushed walnuts or hazelnuts
You can substitute thin slices of sweet potatoes or butternut squash for the zucchinis – they may take a little longer to cook through.
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet and sauté the zucchini until just tender.
Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into a medium soup pan and cook the onion until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in barley. Cook 1 minute.
Add wine and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. Pour in 4 cups of hot stock; stir. Keep heat at medium and the pan uncovered. Cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until barley is tender/chewy. Fold in the zucchini toward the last 5 minutes.
Mash garlic and stir into barley, with cheese, more salt and pepper to taste, and butter. Stir gently.
Ladle the risotto into soup plates and scatter pinches of lemon zest over each serving.
Serve with nuts and more parmesan.