"On an autumnal Sunday afternoon
A pot of barley, pesto, 'shrooms, and Thou -
Beside me, mixing drinks in the kitchen -
And the kitchen is Paradise enow."
This is an autumnal spin on risotto, with barley stepping in for the traditional arborio rice. I love the earthiness of the mushrooms and mild, creamy white beans here, but there's lots of room to play around if you like: roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes, chopped greens, sautéed zucchini, chickpeas, or some combination would all work nicely.
One advantage to using barley is that it takes longer to cook than rice; it's also more forgiving, so you can leave it to bubble away on its own for a few minutes at a time without having to stir it constantly. The finished product retains a nice, slightly chewy "bite," and its winning combo of protein, whole grain, vegetables, and the superhero that is nutritional yeast makes for a particularly yummy example of a healthy, one-dish meal.
Barley Risotto with Pesto, Beans, and Shrooms
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh basil leaves
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 4 cloves garlic
~ 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
~ 3/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1/2 cup water
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
~ 3 cups sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
~ 1 14 oz. can white beans, including liquid
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1.5 cups barley
~ 1 cup white wine
~ 5 cups hot "no chicken" broth
~ Coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and cook the sliced mushrooms over medium-high heat until browned and fragrant (about 5-7 minutes). Stir in the white beans with their liquid and a sprinkle of salt. Continue cooking another 5 minutes or so, until the beans are a bit softened and the liquid slightly reduced. Remove from heat and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the onion over medium heat until soft and translucent but not browned; about 10 minutes.
~ Add the barley and stir to coat; cook another few minutes, until it gives a off a toasty aroma. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until it is mostly absorbed.
~ Begin adding the broth by cupfuls, stirring occasionally until the barley soaks up the liquid. This process takes a bit longer than it does with rice, so you can step away from the stove for a few minutes between stirs.
~ After the first two cups of broth, stir in half the prepared pesto. Continue adding broth every 5-10 minutes or so, until you have achieved a creamy, "risotto" like texture (this should take about 35-40 minutes total, but your mileage may vary).
~ Stir in the remaining pesto and the mushroom and white bean mixture. Combine thoroughly, continue cooking about 5 minutes more, and serve hot.