Barley Risotto

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I have a confession to make … I’ve never made risotto before! Shocking, I know! I tend to stay away from cooking procedures that involve a lot of fussing and extra special care, and risotto involves constant stirring and adding of hot liquid and it can’t be left to cook by itself while the chef goes off to do other things like prepare another dish, check email, play Angry Birds… Well, yesterday, while I was having lunch at Alegria Café in Steveston after my Yoga class,” Tom” was flipping through The Georgia Straight looking at live music events and venues. When I glanced over, my attention was caught by a recipe for Barley Risotto. I quickly read through the recipe, jotted a few notes down on a scrap of paper, then surrendered the newspaper back to “Tom”. I decided to try making this dish for supper seeing as the use of barley, instead of rice, seemed to reduce the fussiness surrounding risotto making and because it seemed fairly easy to veganize (omitting butter and cheese), and here’s what I came up with:

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1 onion, finely chopped *

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 cup barley

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups hot broth **

2 bay leaves

In a large pot, cook the onion over medium heat – add a tbsp. of water at a time to prevent sticking. Cook until onion starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook a bit longer (again, prevent burning, browning and sticking by adding 1 tbsp. of water). Stir in thyme, paprika and barley and cook until the pan become a bit dry. Pour in white wine and stir, scraping up the dry bits at the bottom of the pan (I think this is called deglazing), and allowing the alcohol to cook off. Add hot broth and bay leaves. Simmer over medium-low heat, with no lid, stirring often. Keep the mixture simmering gently and turn down the heat as the liquid gets absorbed by the barley so as not to burn, dry out, stick. Once all the liquid is absorbed, turn off the heat and put the lid on the pot and let sit for a bit while you put the rest of the meal together.

* the original recipe called for leeks and although this would be fine, I didn’t have any so used an onion instead

** I used McCormick’s All-Vegetable Chicken Style Bouillon cubes

We ate our Barley Risotto with roasted vegetables and steamed spinach.

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