Spring is here, and I'm having a thing with asparagus. I keep bringing it into every meal. It partners so well with eggs like in a baked egg dish with parmesan I've been making for years or even just simply roasted and then topped with softly scrambled eggs. For dinner meals, I've been making different grain dishes with asparagus and other spring players like scallions, leeks, and peas. This barely risotto was my favorite of those so far, and it's another recipe from Power Foods. I have bookmarks sticking out of several pages of that book, and last week, I asked for votes on Twitter about which of two dishes to try next. It was this risotto or stuffed poblanos, and it was a very close race. Of course, I made the poblanos too, so watch for those soon. In making the barley risotto, I embellished the dish just a tad by adding some pea shoots I had from my CSA and by sprinkling a little lemon zest on top. Otherwise, I stuck to the instructions for a simple, light, spring meal. And, unlike a traditional Arborio rice risotto, this one doesn’t require constant stirring.
To start, a little olive oil was heated in a large pan, and pearl barley and chopped leeks were added. Once the leeks had softened, white wine was added and minimal stirring ensued until the wine evaporated. Then, water was added, brought to a boil, and left to simmer until absorbed with just an occasional stir here and there. Vegetable broth was added next and the mixture was stirred occasionally over about 10 or 15 minutes until the barley was cooked through and the liquid had thickened. I placed a big handful of pea shoots on top and let them steam for the last few minutes. Then, thawed, frozen peas were added with grated parmigiano reggiano and thinly sliced mint leaves. I served the risotto with lemon zest and shards of parmigiano on top.
It's a light dish with no butter and just a half cup of grated cheese, but chewy, nutritious barley rounds it out and makes it filling. The spring vegetables shine, and the mint points up their flavors. I know zucchini is coming soon, along with summer tomatoes in every color, but I need a little more time with asparagus first.