Toasted Barley Risotto With Fennel and Asparagus….

This dish is really, really good.  I totally LOVED it!   Although I am using barley in lieu of arborio rice, this grain has plenty of starch that will give you the same creamy result as the rice version.  Enjoy as a vegetarian main or as a delicious side.  Add any vegetable combination  you like.  I think it would be really good with re-hydrated porcini mushrooms and peas.  Toasting the barley gives the dish a nutty flavor and keeps it from getting mushy when cooking.  Unlike regular risotto, this rewarms beautifully.  If you want to make it ahead, I think it best not to add the blanched asparagus to the barley until you’re ready to serve.  Adding just before serving will keep it bright green and appetizing.

When cooking risotto, it is difficult to give an exact liquid measure.  You must watch it closely and stir if often.  When you notice that most of the cooking liquid has been absorbed, add more.  When you get close to 45 minutes of cooking time, taste it before adding more liquid.  It should be creamy and the barley should be tender yet  slightly firm to bite.  You may have to add additional liquid.

Another important note on risotto.  When adding liquid to the pot, you’ll want to add hot liquid.  You can have stock on the stove over low heat or zap in the microwave.  Adding cold liquid would prolong cooking time.

Toasted Barley Risotto with Fennel and Asparagus

1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3/4″ pieces

1 cup barley
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped fennel, the bulb portion (about 1 medium bulb)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped arugula or spinach
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh or bottled

1)  Cook the asparagus in a pot of boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes.  Drain and immediately plunge the drained asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain well.  Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.
2)  Put the stock into the microwave to heat or heat in a small pot on the stove.  In a large cooking pot over medium heat add the barley and heat until lightly toasted stirring often.  About 5-7 minutes.  Transfer barley to a bowl and return the pot to the stove.  Add the butter and melt.  Add the onion, fennel and garlic, cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the barley to the pot, stir to coat.
3)  Add 2 cups of the stock to the pot and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 7 minutes.  Add the rest of the stock to the pot.  Continue to stir often.  When most of the liquid is absorbed, add the canned tomatoes with the juice.  Allow the tomato juices to be absorbed.  Taste to check the doneness of the barley.  It should be creamy and the barley should be tender but still be a little chewy.  If you feel it’s too chewy, add a little more liquid and allow this liquid to absorb and taste again.  Once it’s to the right texture, add the parmesan cheese,  arugula (or spinach) and parsley.  Stir until the arugula is wilted.  Taste.  Season with salt and pepper.    Stir in the asparagus and the lemon juice.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.  Makes 4 servings.



Caramelized Onion Pasta with Toasted Panko and Cheese

This pasta is incredibly flavorful and made with simple ingredients.  Serve as a delicious side dish or vegetarian main.  Add whatever you like.  I think it would be outstanding with chopped leftover chicken and petite frozen peas…YUM!

I take an additional step in the process because my guys wouldn’t appreciate identifiable onions and garlic chunks.  I give the mixture a whirl in the blender before adding it to the cooked pasta.  Skip this step if you wish.

Here we go….

We’ll start by toasting the panko.  Preheat the oven to 375′ and give the crumbs a drizzle of olive oil, mix well to coat and spread over a cookie sheet.  Bake for 5-6 minutes. 

They should be golden brown.  Allow to cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the toasted panko, grated parmesan cheese, and dried parsley, mix well.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Caramelize onions until they are golden brown as seen above.  This should take about 25-30 minutes.   Add garlic and 1/2 cup each chicken broth and wine.  Cook for 4 minutes.

Omit this step if you wish.  I blend the onion/wine/broth mixture to a smooth sauce so my guys will eat it.  They love the taste of onions and garlic but don’t much appreciate visible onions or garlic chunks.

It will look like this.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain well and toss the pasta with the sauce.  Top with the panko/cheese/parsley mixture.  The sweetness of the onions and garlic combined with the sharpness of the parmesan and the crunch of the panko will cause a party in your mouth!  Enjoy!

Rotelle Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Panko

 For the Crumbs:
½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley

 For the Pasta:

2 ½ cups thinly sliced onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth (or use ½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon with ½ cup water)
½ pound cooked whole wheat curly pasta (or your favorite kind)

 1)  Preheat oven to 375’.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over bread crumbs and stir to evenly coat.  Spread over cookie sheet and bake 5-6 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Once cool put into a small mixing bowl with the parmesan and the parsley, mix well.  Set aside

2)  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring often until they turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Add the garlic, wine and the chicken broth, cook for about 4 minutes.

3)  You may omit this step if you wish.  I put the onion/wine/garlic mixture into the blender so that my people will eat it.  They love the taste of onions and garlic but not necessarily the stringy pieces of onion and chunks of garlic.  It’s a texture thing.

4)  Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water.  Drain well and gently toss with the onion mixture and top with the panko/cheese/parsley mixture.  Serves 4.

*if you’d like to make this vegetarian, simply substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.