Risotto of black barley, garlic scapes and white corn

Black barley risotto

People become vegetarians for lots of different reasons. Some people just don’t like the taste or smell of meat. I am not one of those people! I haven’t eaten meat since I was about twelve, so I don’t remember exactly what it tastes like, but sometimes…when I smell a steak being grilled or bacon being cooked, it smells good. I know assuredly that I don’t want to eat it, but I find myself trying to make things that taste like my memory of the taste of meat. When I made this risotto, I kept describing it as “meaty.” I feel like I may have used that word so many times that my family wanted to go out and buy me a thesaurus! There’s just something about this broth – it’s dark and savory and flavorful, but it has a kind of sweetness to it, as well. For some reason it just tasted…meaty.

We got some garlic scapes from our CSA. They’re the lovely, long, curly green stems of garlic bulbs, which taste like a milder, sweeter garlic. They can still be quite pungent, raw, but in this dish they’re stewed in delicious broth for some time, so they become soft and sweet. They go nicely with black barley, which has a nice, nutty flavor. You could easily use regular barley or arborio rice to make this, and it would take less time and probably be creamier. But it wouldn’t have that distinctive deep, black barley flavor and color. It did take more than an hour for all the broth to be absorbed, but you don’t have to stir it the whole time. The barley almost spoke to me, as I made this … as soon as I heard the barley sizzling in the dry pan, I knew it was time to add more broth. It told me when it was ready! As ever, the broth is quite important in a risotto. In order to make it, well, meaty, I used a little marmite, a little tamari, some tomato paste, and a handful of french lentils. You could use whatever you have on hand, though!

Garlic scapes

Good heavens!! Helen Humes! Why have I never heard of her before? She’s amazing. Smokes. Here she is singing Garlic Blues. Wow. Wiki says, “…her true young voice consorting oddly with bizarre material like “Garlic Blues.”
Consorting oddly! Gotta love the wikipedia. The other day I said I’d like to someday be introduced as “my colleague” (“My esteemed colleague, obviously, being ideal). I’ve changed my mind. I want to be introduced as “Claire Adas … and her orchestra!”

Broth made by warming olive oil, adding 1 shallot roughly chopped, 1 garlic scape, roughly chopped, 2 mushrooms, 1 t dried porcini, 2 T french lentils, 1/2 t marmite, 1 t tomato paste, 1 t dried sage, 1 t dried rosemary, 2 lettuce leaves, 1 carrot, roughly chopped. 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t tamari…and anything else you want to add! When it’s all sizzling, add about 6 cups water. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for half an hour or more.


3/4 cups black barley – rinsed and drained
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 – 2 cups garlic scapes, cut into 1/3-inch pieces (on a diagonal is nice)
2 t fresh sage (or 1 t dried)
2 t fresh marjoram
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups broth
1 tomato, roughly chopped
1 cup white corn kernels (I used frozen, but you could scrape them from a cob, if you have one!)
1 T butter
dash of balsamic
salt & plenty of pepper

In a large wide pan (a frying pan, I guess) over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic scapes, and cook till they’re starting to brown and quite soft – 5 to 10 minutes. Add the herbs, pepper flakes and wine, and stir and cook till the wine is reduced and syrupy. Add the barley, and cook till it’s nicely coated with the wine and herbs. Cook for a few minutes till everything is warm and sizzly. Add about one cup of broth, and cook till it’s absorbed. Five minutes, maybe. I turned the heat to medium-high, and kept the broth at a low boil. Keep adding broth about 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s absorbed each time. It will take a little longer than regular risotto or even regular barley risotto. I think it took about an hour and a half, but you don’t need to stir it the entire time. After about an hour, taste the barley – it should be soft, but still have a bite to it, it doesn’t get as soft as regular barley. It will split open a little bit. It’s done when it’s a texture that you like. When the barley tastes done to you, add the corn and tomatoes, and stir well. Then add as much broth as you like. I like my risotto quite brothy, but if you like it drier, don’t add more broth once the barley is cooked. Cook until the corn is warm enough and the tomatoes are just starting to soften.

Add a knob of butter and a dash of balsamic. Season with salt and plenty of pepper, and serve!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s