Have you ever tried a barley risotto? If not, you are in for a treat. As an eternal devotee to the wonders of Italian cuisine, I don’t think it gets much better than this. This is a wondrous dish – hearty, healthy, vibrant, refreshing, green, and amazingly delicious. Easily one of my favorite things that I’ve made so far this year. Trust me, this is a dish that you will come to crave.
You will also love that you can go for seconds (and thirds!) without feeling too much guilt – barley is packed full of fiber (both soluble and insoluble), protein, copper, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. Whew! But most importantly, it tastes SO GOOD. As in, I don’t at all prefer regular Arborio rice-style risotto over barley risotto.
If you haven’t cooked with barley before, be forewarned that it is a very thirsty grain, and the copious amounts of liquid and stirring in this recipe are quite necessary for the perfect end result. Do feel free to change up the beans, greens, and herb combination – the possibilities are endless.
Barley Risotto with Cannellini Beans, Arugula, Kale, and Lemon Zest
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut to a 1/4″ dice
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
14 oz can cannellini beans
3 packed cups of arugula and kale mix, the argula chopped and the kale cut into 1/4-1/2″ ribbons
1/2 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
juice of half a lemon, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
zest of 1-2 lemons
handful of chopped arugula
freshly grated cheese
1.) In your widest heavy-bottomed skillet (not nonstick), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, marjoram, and a few pinches of salt, and cook for about 10 minutes; or until onion begins to take on some color and the bottom of the pan is beginning to collect some delicious browned bits. Meanwhile, gently heat your stock in a small saucepan so that it is nice and warm, but not simmering or boiling.
2.) Once the onions are nicely colored, add barley and cook for several minutes more.
2.) Add white wine to deglaze the plan, and scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon.
3.) Now we begin the long (yet immensely satisfying) process of adding the liquid. Add 1 cup of stock and stir until fully incorporated.
4.) Continue adding stock and stirring frequently by 1/2 cup at a time, making sure to let the barley absorb each 1/2 cup before you add the next. If you add too much liquid at a time, the risotto will not come out as intended. You will have between 6 to 8 additions. I used 3 1/2 cups of stock, but you may wish to use more if you prefer a “looser” risotto.
5.) Once all of your stock is absorbed and the barley is pleasant to the bite, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese and butter. Then stir in the beans and greens. Cook until greens are wilted; just a few minutes.
6.) Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice. To serve, divide between 4 plates (or 2 if you are habitually hungry). Sprinkle each serving with a bit of chopped arugula, and loads of lemon zest and cheese.