Monday, April 7, 2014

Barley Risotto with Lemongrass & Roasted Broccoli

In my head I'm a really good farmer. My perfect image farmer self has a chicken coop full of eggs, an overflowing garden in which I preserve, dry, and pressure cook away so that I can sustain my family over the winter and maybe a small, green tractor like the one my dad had when we were growing up. What other farmer things would I have? A barn. I'd have a really cool, old barn. And a big farmhouse porch that I could sit on and fan myself while drinking iced tea. Doesn't this sound so relaxing? I fear there are several important Farmer Details I'm leaving out because my Farmer Knowledge is colored by memory of my little girl self growing up on a hobby farm. We had acres upon of acres of heavily wooded land that a river ran through which fed the mile long garden in which the green tractor plowed. We lived in an old spooky farmhouse littered with antiques that were most assuredly from Laura Ingalls Wilder's day. A two-story barn and out sheds that held chickens, a pig, a pony, a bunny, so many kitties and dogs. Endless adventure was possible for a small child and endless work for a real farmer. Back to my adult imaginary farm that I work really hard on with punishing, back-breaking hard work that puts me in physical pain at the end of the day and guess what? I kinda like that. I like it so much so that I've volunteered to be a trainee farmer by weeding my CSA's real life garden in return for a bushel of garden treasure which will be sure to inspire this blog forever and ever! It's happening people. 

As I become a trainee farmer there is an actual real farmer, A-Frame Farm, who sowed this organic barley. What do you cook with barley? Typically, I put the whole grain into soups or make a (snore) pilaf with mushrooms. My regular recipe rotation when it comes to barley are none too exciting. How to reinvigorate barley? After a quick web search on barley recipes I settled on a recipe that seemed fast enough for a lunch meal, but as I was standing in my kitchen deciding which kettle to choose I realized that this was not a fast, mix ingredients up, put the lid on, walk away and forget it dish. I seemed to ignore one important word in the recipe title: risotto. Risotto means standing over a skillet, stirring, adding hot broth, stirring, standing, adding broth, stirring, broth, standing. Babysitting the stove. Insert expletive here. However! Ingredients were assembled, the broccoli was already chopped, lemongrass was minced. Things were happening, suddenly we were making risotto, not a put a lid on it and forget it type dish. Bring on the risotto.
This lovely sack of barley from the certified organic A-Frame Farm in Madison, Minnesota I picked up at my local food coop's online marketplace. Check out how to order your own barley now if you're in Buffalo on Thursday evenings because you can have a lovely sack of barley, among other goods, too! 
Then, after you get your lovely sack of barley round up some olive oil, broccoli, red chili flake, turmeric, parmesan cheese, broth or water, and some lemongrass. What? You don't have access to lemongrass? Usually, I wouldn't either, but this lemongrass has been sitting in my freezer since the sweet little farmer lady at last summer's farmer market said I could freeze lemongrass whole. Now, because spring is upon us, I'm in use-up-all-the-summer-preserved-stuff mode. Lemongrass - you are now something greater.
If you're not on a freezer cleaning binge and have no desire to commence a wild goose chase hunting down lemongrass, just substitute fresh ginger and garlic. Easy. You have ginger and garlic, right? I thought so. Same zing. Same flavor. 
Don't waste dish washing energy by oven-roasting your broccoli, like I did. Wasted energy is so wrong. Pan-roast the broccoli in the same skillet you're going to saute the lemongrass and barley in. Simpilfy, people. Lessen dishwashing. Let's not complicate things. Say it with me: Simplify. After you've (im)patiently added the broth to the sautéed barley and lemongrass, which takes about 30 minutes to absorb and fatten the barley, you add in the additional flavorings and roasted broccoli and you're ready to eat! 

How do you simplify cooking? 

Printable Recipe Here

Cooking Notes: In the kitchen I'm constantly appreciating one less dish to hit the sink. The original recipe called for roasting broccoli in the oven, so I grudgingly dirtied a cookie sheet and a silpat to roast broccoli. I'm going to save you two dishes by giving you the option to pan-roast the broccoli. 

If you can't get a hold of lemongrass you could easily substitute 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger for similar zing and flavor. Add the garlic and ginger at the same time I add the lemongrass in the recipe below.

Barley Risotto with Lemongrass & Roasted Broccoli
recipe adapted from

Yield: Serves 4 generously

4 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
3 cups bite-sized broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
1 tablespoon lemongrass, finely chopped (see above for substitution option)
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Additional parmesan, for serving

Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat on the stove-top. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat for a minute. Add the broccoli florets, give it a stir, then don't stir the broccoli. No, really - don't stir. Let it sizzle and hiss. This is good - this is providing brown, yummy edges. Sizzle for 2-3 minutes. Stir. Sizzle another 2-3 minutes. Remove broccoli from skillet to a plate and reserve. 

Return skillet to moderate heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat. Add barley and lemongrass or ginger and garlic, if using, sauté until barley is starting to become golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat stock in a separate saucepan. Add ladleful of hot stock at a time to sautéed barley and stir occasionally. When the broth is absorbed, add more and repeat for 25-30 minutes or until barley is tender. 

Add cooked broccoli, parmesan, turmeric, and red chili flakes to cooked barley. Season with salt and pepper. Give that a good stir. Remove from heat and serve with additional parmesan on top. 


  1. excellent. i am also a 'less pans are awesome for me' lady. i've been afraid to venture into the world of barely.. but you've masked it as risotto.. so Im follow you!

    1. I hope you do - let me know how it goes!! Super chewy and yummy - healthy, too!


I'd love to hear all about your kitchen adventures! Xo, Becki