Barley Risotto with Spinach and Walnuts

Over the last two months, I’ve gone from thinking barley was just in weird soups at mediocre restaurants to being more than a little obsessed with it. I recently had a craving for risotto, and when I saw that Heidi Swanson had made some with barley in Super Natural Cooking, I was immediately inspired.

I made a few changes to the recipe in the book because using both orange and lemon seemed like it would be citrus overkill for me. I also used spinach instead of arugula because I just like spinach a whole lot more. This doesn’t get as creamy as risotto made with arborio rice, but it’s much healthier and Mike called it one of the best things I’ve made lately (which is probably because my attempt at vegan macaroni and cheese last night was a GIGANTIC flop). So, you want risotto but you’re trying to eat more whole grains? Here you go!

(inspired by Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
a few pinches of salt
2 cups pearled barley
1 cup white wine
5 cups vegetable broth
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, shallot, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes.
Add the barley and salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the broth to a simmer in a separate pan.
Stir in the wine and keep at a simmer. Stir in the broth, one cup at a time, waiting until most of the liquid is absorbed between additions. You may not need to add all the broth, but you’ll know when you’ve added enough because the barley will be tender and most of the liquid will be absorbed.
Stir in the lemon zest and spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted.
Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and sour cream. Taste and add salt if needed, then serve, sprinkled with chopped walnuts.

6 Responses to “Barley Risotto with Spinach and Walnuts”

  1. 1 branny March 1, 2010 at 6:42 am

    What a great looking recipe, Cate. I have all of the ingredients in the house. I may be trying this today!

    Sorry to hear about your vegan mac and cheese recipe flop. I’ve got one in my blog in case you need to reference another recipe.

  2. 2 Kira March 1, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I just bought some barley last week with no particular plans for it. This looks delicious and like DH would like it as well. Can’t wait to try it!

  3. 3 Olga March 2, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    That looks great! I’d add some sauteed mushrooms too.

  4. 4 Kate at Serendipity March 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    OH, MAN. I love risotto. I like barley. I’ve NEVER thought of doing this. Thanks for this recipe!

  5. 5 Renee March 6, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Looks great. I just recently found out that pearled barley is not a whole grain, unfortunately – It still has more fiber than arborio rice, though, so this is a nice alternative. I’ve been on the lookout for hulled barley, which is a whole grain, but haven’t found it yet.

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