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!”

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