Barley Risotto with Caraway-Seasoned Feta

January 16, 2015 | By | More

barley risotto

This time of year, I have an inner struggle about wanting to hunker down with some heavy comfort food – something blanketed with bubbly melted and/or burnt cheese – and knowing that I did just that yesterday. And maybe even the day before.

This tomato-y barley risotto is plenty comforting without being too heavy. There’s this cookbook called Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi that I have been slowly working my way through in between gawking at the stunning photography within. Some of the recipes in the book contain some not-so-easy-to-find ingredients. However, this risotto is one of the easiest and most accessible dishes in the book, so it was one of the first recipes I tried from the book.

Making traditional risotto from arborio rice can be an exercise in patience, requiring low and slow cooking and constant stirring until you’ve achieved the perfect creamy consistency. But, this barley risotto is low maintenance – all you need is a slow simmer and you can walk away, stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is tender.

This crowd-pleasing barley risotto is a perfectly suitable vegetarian entree and it’s topped with a generous heap of feta seasoned with olive oil and toasty caraway seeds.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 cup pearl barley

1 Tbsp. lightly toasted caraway seeds (toast them in a dry skillet until fragrant)

10 ounces good feta (I used sheep’s milk feta), crumbled

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 celery stalks, diced

2 shallots, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 bay leaf

4 strips lemon peel

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, or 1 pint jar of home-canned tomatoes, diced

Scant 3 cups vegetable stock

1 1/4 cups passata or strained tomatoes

Passata may also be labeled “strained tomatoes” and I find it in the canned tomato section of my local Whole Foods Market.

Chopped fresh oregano leaves for serving

Step one: 

1 cup pearl barley

10 ounces good feta, crumbled

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

6 Tbsp. olive oil

2 celery stalks, diced

2 shallots, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

Rinse the pearl barley and set aside to drain.

Melt butter and 2 Tbsp. olive oil together in a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add the celery, shallots, and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toss together the crumbled feta, 4 Tbsp. olive oil and toasted caraway seeds. Set aside at room temperature.

Step two: 

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 bay leaf

4 strips lemon peel

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, or 1 pint jar of home-canned tomatoes, diced

Scant 3 cups vegetable stock

1 1/4 cups passata or strained tomatoes

Add to the skillet the reserved, rinsed barley, the thyme, smoked paprika, bay leaf, lemon peel, pepper flakes, tomatoes, stock, and passata. Season modestly with sea salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. Cook for about 45-60 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the risotto from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The risotto is done when the barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Step three:

Chopped fresh oregano leaves

Serve the barley risotto in shallow bowls topped generously with the seasoned feta and a sprinkling of chopped fresh oregano.

 

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Category: General, Main Dishes, Recipes, Winter

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