Friday, March 13, 2009

Recipe #14- Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Peas

I tried one of the recipes from this month's issue of Clean Eating this past week. It was a take on risotto, but instead of using a short grain, sticky rice like Arborio, you use barley. I was intrigued when I first saw the recipe, not only because the picture was so beautiful, but also because I'm always looking to introduce grains in interesting ways into my cooking.

So why try the risotto with barley as opposed to just using the rice (What's wrong with Rice? Right Janet :-p) Well when compared to white rice, barley has almost half the calories (193 v. 242 calories per cup) and fewer grams of total carbs (53 v. 44), but I think the biggest difference between rice and barley is the fiber content. While white rice has a whopping 53 grams of carbs, it only has .6 grams of fiber. Barley, on the other hand, is lower in carbs, but MUCH higher in dietary fiber with 6 grams per serving! Barley even tops brown rice when it comes to calories, carbs and fiber. Anyway...we all need to up our fiber content, and barley risotto sounded WAY better than a glass of Metamucil...

The recipe was pretty simple. You basically saute up some shallots and scallions in olive oil, add the barley and some chicken broth. Let that cook. Add the cut up asparagus and peas, and then stir in fresh basil, parsley and lemon zest.

Overall I REALLY enjoyed my barley risotto! Initially I had planned on putting a little butter in it and maybe throwing in some white wine, but I figured I would try and make it a totally clean meal and see how it tasted. It was really good. Clean and simple, but very very tasty and that was just with the asparagus (I forgot the peas).

The thing I was most worried about was getting the creamy consistency that most risottos have. While it wasn't creamy like a typical risotto, it did have an element of creaminess to it.... I'm not really sure where the creaminess came from... maybe it was cooked in more or less liquid than normal, or maybe barley is supposed to a little creamy when cooked? Either way I was pleasantly surprised by the texture and the taste of the dish. The next time I make it I may try and up the creaminess quotient (without ruining the clean-ness of the meal) by roasting and pureeing some cauliflower to add to the broth... I'll probably also add a little coriander (which I like with asparagus), more lemon zest to brighten up the flavor, and I have to think of a different herb to add... I'm not really a fan of parsley.

Overall I give the dish a solid A

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