Last night, on David’s Birthday Eve, we had this risotto. It’s a nice meal for a chilly fall day, when you still have piles of tomatoes tumbling off your counter. I realized, yesterday, that I’ve never had a risotto with beans in it. Which seems surprising, because rice and beans are so perfect together. I think of tomatoes, roasted reds, olives and white beans as being something of a classic combination. So I cooked it with arborio rice, and left it nice and warm and brothy.
This black barley dish is almost like a risotto, but like a risotto made by a very lazy person that didn’t want to make a broth or stir it every minute of the day. The barley is cooked till it’s tender but toothsome (if that means al dente). And it makes its own creamy sort of sauce, just like a risotto. I warmed some butter and white wine and herbs in a big frying pan, and added the barley with its creamy broth. Then I added some water and let that cook down a bit. I found baby kale at the grocery store, and I was quite excited about it. It does have a kale taste, but not as assertively. It has a little bite. I cooked it for much less time than I usually cook kale – I tossed it into the barley broth towards the end, and cooked till it was nicely wilted. (You could easily use regular kale, cooked first, or baby spinach, which wouldn’t need to be cooked at all.) I also made roasted mushrooms and tiny crispy roasted potatoes, to toss on the dish. And I toasted some pecans. I like all of these tastes together – and they all go so well with sage, rosemary and thyme, which I used to flavor pretty much every element involved. I topped mine with some crumbled bleu cheese, too, which added a lovely creamy/salty element, but nobody else in my family did, cause they’re not fans of the bleu cheese. The whole thing added up to a very savory, meaty meal – the smell of barley and roasted mushrooms lingered in my house all evening. It’s a nice smell!
I didn’t really want to make leek soup, mostly because I’d just made soup. But I did want to make something with a broth, because I thought it would be a handy way to use the trimmings from the leeks. (Why the heck are leeks so expensive around here? Aren’t they supposed to be a humble vegetable?) So I decided to make a risotto. And I decided to add tarragon and lots of parsley, because I’ve been in the mood for parsley lately, with its fresh green springlike flavor. And then I decided to top the risotto with toasted pecans, because all that creamy rice can use a flavorful crunch.
The broth is fairly important in a risotto, I think you’ll find. I generally make a broth with shallot, garlic, tomato paste, carrots, mushrooms, marmite, tamari, a handful of french lentils and whatever green thing I have around the house. I thought I’d like to make this a little simpler and brighter, though. So I used leek trimmings, a few sprigs of parsley, some fennel, some garlic, some frozen lettuce (darn my veg drawers!) and a couple of teaspoons of tomato paste. Turned out very nice! You can use what you have though. Even an already-made one, if you like the flavor.