In my family, we ate rice almost every night in one way or another. Whether as a side dish, combined with beans, in chicken and rice, or in a comfort food of fried eggs over rice, it was there every day.
In my husband’s Italian family, it was pasta every day. Even their family dog ate it every day.
Which makes adopting a low carb diet quite a challenge. But I will say this: I’ve lost nearly 23 pounds in about two months, so it’s definitely working!
One challenge has been having a side dish that’s got the mouth feel and taste of rice, but is healthier. I’ve mentioned quinoa and you could probably substitute that in this recipe. But why not try another healthy whole grain: Barley?
Barley’s dietary fiber gives your intestinal health a boost and can also help to lower cholesterol. Plus it’s a good source of niacin, a B vitamin and has been known to help people with Type 2 Diabetes with their glucose and insulin responses. For more information on all this, you can click here.
Today I’m giving you a recipe I’ve adapted after watching Mary Ann Esposito and her Ciao Italia show. Did you know that Mary Ann has been on the air for 23 years, making her show the longest running cooking series in America?
Thanks, Mary Ann! I love your recipes and advice on great Italian food.
But for now, here is my version of a barley and leek risotto.
Barley and Leek Risotto
1 cup barley (be sure to rinse it first; you can also soak it for an hour to reduce cooking time)
2 cups vegetable and/or chicken broth (keep this heated)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup diced mushrooms
1 cup sliced leeks (Be sure to thoroughly rinse. Leeks can have lots of dirt between the leaves)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup fresh parsley minced
Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a stockpot and heat on high. Add the mushrooms and brown them. Then add the leeks and sweat them down for about a minute. Add another tablespoon of the olive oil and once it’s hot, add the barley and toast it a bit. Coating the grains in oil will help keep them from clumping.
Add the hot broth, a cup at a time. Stir until the broth is almost absorbed, then add the second cup of broth and cook down at a low simmer. Keep stirring and checking to see if the barley is al dente.
Once the barley is al dente, add the tablespoon of butter and cook it a bit more. Finally, stir in the parmesan cheese and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste here. I say hold up on the salt since the broth and/or parmesan have enough, but that’s up to you.
Serve as soon as you can. You don’t want to let it clump as it sits.
Also have additional parmesan on the table to add to the top of the barley! Voila. A simple and tasty risotto dish.
If you don’t have leeks, you can substitute shallots, scallions and/or regular onions. It’s just that leeks have a milder, almost asparagus taste. They’re actually known as the “poor man’s asparagus.”
Also, keep those heavier, bigger leek greens. Next time you’re making a soup, clean them, tie them together with butcher’s twine and toss them in. They impart wonderful flavor to any broth!
Hope you enjoyed today’s recipe!