On one of our weekly lunch adventures, my friend Melissa and I decided to try out a risotto made from barley. Barley is a whole grain that (unless you have a wheat allergy) is better for you than rice, even brown rice. The grains are larger and chewier than rice, but they make a very good substitute. I actually like barley better than rice because the chewiness gives the dish more body.
Don't you love asparagus season? I do. And those tender stalks are the perfect companion for a risotto.
Add in some leeks and white wine and you are headed for something great.
Finish it off with Parmesan, mint, and lemon and this is Spring in a bowl. So hearty and good! For the recipe, head over to Smells Like Brownies.
A couple of weeks after we made that risotto, I headed down to TX to help my mother recover from a major surgery. I knew that she had been eating mostly frozen diet food and I wanted to cook her something that was fresh, healthy, and delicious. I still had that risotto in my mind, and I tweaked it a bit to incorporate my favorite way to eat asparagus - topping a lemon and barley risotto with a raw shaved asparagus salad. The contrast of warm grains and cold, raw asparagus was really good. Better than a frozen meal any day!
Lemon Barley Risotto with Shaved Asparagus Salad
First, make the Risotto:
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken stock, warmed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
wedge of Parmesan
Melt 1 tbsp butter and the olive oil together in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook until translucent; add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the barley and cook, stirring, until coated in oil, about 1 minute. Add one ladle (about 1/2 cup) of warm broth to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is almost entirely evaporated. Continue, adding one ladle at a time, until the barley is cooked through, about 30 min. Stir in the remaining tbsp of butter, all the zest, and half the lemon juice. Grate about a cup of Parmesan into the risotto; season with salt and pepper.
Then make the Shaved Asparagus Salad:
1 lb asparagus, rinsed
reserved lemon juice
High quality EVOO
Fleur de Sel
Freshly ground black pepper
wedge of Parmesan cheese
Holding onto the tough end of the asparagus stalk, use a vegetable peeler to shave off thin asparagus ribbons from stalk to tip, peeling away from the tough end in your hand. Discard the tough ends. Squeeze some lemon juice over the asparagus, drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Grate large ribbons of Parmesan into the asparagus, toss.
Spoon the risotto into individual serving bowls, top with the shaved asparagus, serve immediately.