Friday, April 26, 2013

Whole Barley "Risotto" with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Peas

I've been trying to figure a lot of things out lately. Things that have to do with my future, my career, my dreams. There are a lot of ideas swirling around in this head of mine and I have to admit, it's been a bit overwhelming. Uprooting my life and moving to a city where the possibilities are literally endless has been really great, but at the same time, really intimidating for someone like me. I feel like I'm fighting a battle with myself sometimes. A battle of self-doubt mixed with a feeling of invincibility. One minute I feel like I can do anything and the next, I feel that there's just no possible way. It's really something.

You see, I desperately want to feel fulfilled in the work I do. Doesn't everyone? Simply put, I want to make a difference in people's lives through teaching about food's ability to heal. I'm so passionate about creating beautiful, delicious, and healing food and all I want to do is share it with others who are eager to learn. I honestly feel that it is my calling to do so. And that's why I write this blog. That's why I'm so utterly committed to this space, even though those feelings of inadequacy creep up and cause me to wonder why I bother. There are so many people out there doing what I dream of doing and they're doing it so damn well that I just can't help but compare myself to their greatness. And you know what happens when you compare yourself to others, don't you? Well, you're just setting yourself up to be crippled by your own thoughts of self-doubt.

I guess it seems like I've treated this post like a venting session, and I thank you for reading these jumbled up thoughts of mine. Truly. There are still so many things swirling around in my head, but it helps to write it down. Put it out there. Maybe see if something will become of it. At the very least, it's an attempt motivate myself to get out there, take risks, and conquer these dreams of mine no matter how scary it is. I don't want to settle anymore just because it's safer and easier. I don't want to be that person.

Really, all this rambling has nothing to do with barley risotto. But I will say that this dish is quite delicious given the fact that it has very few ingredients. Using whole, unpearled barley kept this dish from becoming creamy and "risotto-like", so I suggest using pearled barley or regular Arborio rice if that's what you're after. I wrote a recipe for a traditional springtime risotto this time last year if you want to check it out here. But in this, I really wanted the grains to be toothsome, hearty, and healthy. It's want I'm craving this time of year. Mixed with some of my favorite spring vegetables, it was a real treat. A much needed bowl of comfort when I needed it most.

Whole Barley "Risotto" with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Peas 
(serves 2 hungry people generously)

1 1/2 cups whole (unpearled) barley, preferably soaked overnight to aid digestibility
3 tbs organic grass-fed butter (or olive oil to make it vegan)
1 large onion, finely diced
sea salt
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, minced
12 large crimini mushrooms (or other mushrooms of your choice), sliced
1 bunch of asparagus, tough part of stems removed and cut into 2" pieces
1 cup of shelled fresh English peas
more butter for finishing

1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter with a generous pinch of salt for about 5-7 minutes or until onion becomes soft and translucent.

2.Add the whole sprigs of thyme, the bay leaves, minced garlic, and sliced crimini mushrooms. Stir well and cook another 7-10 minutes until the mushrooms start to release their juices.

3. Add the barley along with 3 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Watch the pot and occasionally give it a stir as the liquid starts getting absorbed and evaporated. If too much water evaporates before the barley is cooked all the way, just add more water a little at a time and continue to simmer until the barley is cooked through. It took about 45-50 minutes for my barley to get soft enough (and I soaked mine overnight), but yours may take a bit longer. Keep in mind, if you decide to use pearled barley for this (barley with the outer bran layer removed) it will cook a lot faster.

4. When the barley is cooked to your liking and there is hardly any liquid remaining in the pot, remove the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves. Add the asparagus and peas and stir well until they turn a bright green and retain some crunch. Finish it off by stirring in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter for a beautiful rich taste and seasoning with salt to your liking. Remember salt brings out flavor and don't be afraid of the butter! It makes it delicious. Enjoy.

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