lately, i've been drawn to recipes with barley. maybe it is because of the recent cold snap and my desires to make/eat soups. i will say i have always liked eating barley, but never have i cooked with it till recently. not sure why. so last week after making mushroom barley soup i started searching for other recipes. and there are lots out there. i usually associate barley with beef and mushroom soups. but i found other soups, salads, and even breakfast dishes. but the most intriguing one i ran across was barley risotto with beans and greens on smittenkitchen.com (one of favorite food blogs!) risotto...made with barley...instead of arborio rice? i love risotto. i always order it if it's on the menu. so i was very intrigued. so last night when b had to work late i decided to make some. (not serving him any kind of dead animal would create a grumpy and hungry hubby. so only on night where i'm cooking for myself can i get away with a veggie and carb only meal.)
side note: i also learned there are many health benefits to eating barley. it is good for:
Barley's Fiber for Regularity, Lower Cholesterol, & Intestinal Protection
Protection Against Atherosclerosis
Significant Cardiovascular Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
Prevent Heart Failure with a Whole Grains Breakfast
Barley and Other Whole Grains Substantially Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Cereal and Fruit Fiber Protective against Postmenopausal Breast Cancer
Can Help Prevent Gallstones
Whole Grains and Fish Highly Protective against Childhood Asthma
Promote Optimal Health with Barley's Fiber and Selenium
Barley's Copper Can Benefit Arthritis Sufferers
Development and Repair of Body Tissue
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine if using and cook, stirring until absorbed, about one minute. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time in six additions — you’ll have a cup of stock left in the pot — stirring until it is nearly absorbed between additions. Most barley risottos are done when the barley is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 35 minutes, however, I like to take this one a little “soupier” adding another half to one cup of stock. (This gives the beans something to drink up, and you a margin of error if you grains continue to absorb the stock once you think they are done.) Stir it in until the risotto is on the loose side, then add the beans and let them cook for a minute. Add the escarole and let it wilt and then cook for an additional minute. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve at once, passing more cheese at the table.
Do ahead: Although it’s not generally ideal to reheat rice risottos, I actually enjoyed this barley one reheated. Keep the flame low, splash in some more broth if it seems thick and slowly warm the dish, stirring. Top with extra cheese.