Pumpkin, Sage & Barley Risotto


Barley is one of the most ancient grains still in existence, yet many have never tasted its toothsome goodness - except perhaps a handful of grains in a bowl of soup. Barley is quite versatile with a nutty flavor and chewy texture. It's similar to whole wheat in shape but lighter in color. This Pumpkin, Sage and Barley Risotto is dairy-free and easier to make than traditional risottos made with Arborio rice. This risotto's got much more character too! Layered with warm flavors, delightfully creamy, chewy and crunchy, Pumpkin, Sage and Barley Risotto is the perfect comfort food for the chilly days ahead.

Barley is available hulled or pearled. Hulled barley is the whole grain form with both the outer husk and bran layers intact, thus providing more fiber and nutrients. Pearled barley has been polished to remove the outer husks and bran, therefore it cooks faster than hulled barley. Because of this extra processing, pealed barley has a longer shelf life and consequently is more commonly stocked. Hulled barley can easily be ordered online if you can't find it in your local grocery store ~ check the bulk bins for extra savings!

Hulled barley contains far more fiber (both soluble and insoluble) than any other whole grain making it useful in maintaining a balance of healthy gut microbes and possibly lowering blood cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. Barley is also an excellent source of key minerals, like manganese, selenium, molybdenum, copper and iron, as well as B vitamins.

Okay, let's get crackin'!

Total Time: 65 minutes Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 60 minutes

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For 4 servings, you will need:

• 1 medium onion, diced small (~ 1 cup)

• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

• 1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil

• 1 cup hulled barley*

• 2 cups stock (any kind) or water

• 3 tablespoons plant-based butter (I use Earth Balance)

• 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour

• 1 cup nut milk (I use cashew)

• 1/2 cup cup stock (any kind or water)

• 1/2 cup dry white wine

• 1 cup pumpkin puree (butternut squash or sweet potato will work too)

• 1 teaspoon ground turmeric or 1 Tbsp. fresh

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage**, plus whole leaves for garnish

• salt and pepper

• 1/2 cup red or English walnuts, toasted*** and roughly chopped

* if using pearled barley, reduce initial cooking time to 20-25 minutes

** if fresh sage is unavailable, use 1.5 tsp rubbed sage

*** walnuts can be toasted in a dry skillet over med/low heat OR on a baking sheet at 300 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until fragrant (toss to prevent over-browning).

NOTE: many plant-based versions of recipes use nutritional yeast to replace the flavor, color and sometimes texture of the cheeses typically used in dishes like risottos- Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Manchego, etc. I experimented with a 1:1 replacement here, using 1/4 cup nutritional yeast instead of dairy cheese. I did not care for the flavor here. The caramelized onions, sage, high quality white wine and stock can stand on their own, but feel free to add some if you like (stir it in while the risotto is still piping hot).

The Process:

1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion; sauté, stirring occasionally until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic; continue to cook for 1-2 minutes more.

2. Next, add the barley, turmeric and the 2 cups of stock (or water). Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook until the water has been fully absorbed, 50 minutes. Turn off heat, keep the pot covered and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the plant-based butter. When melted, add the flour. Whisk until the flour is fully absorbed. Cook for 2 minutes. It's important for the flour to fully cook here so you end up with a flavorful sauce and not one that tastes of flour paste - so don't be tempted to shorten the time in this step.

4. Next, drizzle the white wine into the flour mixture while whisking continuously use a stainless wire whisk). Continue whisking while drizzling in the nut milk and additional 1/2 cup of stock (or water). The mixture should be slightly thickened and smooth, about 2-3 minutes

5. Lower the heat and add the pumpkin, sage, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

6. Add the cooked barley and stir until fully incorporated and hot throughout.

7. Dish onto a platter or individual serving bowl. Garnish with toasted walnuts and fried sage (if desired). Serve immediately!

Left-over risotto can be chilled overnight and formed into patties, dredged in whole wheat panko crumbs and browned in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5-6 minutes on each side. Barley risotto is less starchy than Arborio rice, therefore the mixture will be looser and more delicate. Care should be taken when flipping the barley risotto cakes. It's best to do this when the barley risotto is still cold.

Pumpkin, Sage & Barley Risotto is delicious served with a winter greens salad and brothy beans. Check out my Broad Beans and Sautéed Greens recipe HERE.

Nutrition information is for 1.5 cups of Pumpkin, Sage and Barley Risotto and 2 Tbsp. of walnuts.

Be sure to show me what you make! Tag me #chefcatherinebrown - I LOVE seeing what you make!

DISCLOSURES: None. This post was not created in affiliation with any product or brand. The opinions expressed are my own. I will only write about products I use and trust.

NOTE: All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on A Seat at My Table so credit is given where credit is due. Thank you!

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CatherineeBrown@hotmail.com  603-237-1012  PO Box 253 Errol, NH 03579