Was your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier? How long did it last? A few days? A week? I usually start out the year exercising daily and eating my five-a-day quota. But it doesn’t last long, and by the middle of January it all falls apart. My cravings for the warmth of winter favorites, from gooey macaroni and cheese and rich beef stew to creamy hot chocolate and flaky cinnamon buns, always seem to win out.
When it’s cold and grey and blustery, all I want to eat are hearty, indulgent favorites. And risotto is high on that list. A steaming plate of creamy risotto is just the thing to warm the belly on a chilly night. But it is generally not the thing to flatten that belly.
Although my resolution this year is to simply enjoy, to eat for pleasure, and to savor every bite, nutrition still counts. For the moment I’m content to hide these extra few pounds under bulky sweaters and puffy jackets, but I know that I’ll have to pull out that bathing suit soon enough. So while I may not make it to the gym every day, I’m trying for some balance.
A little more fruit and a little less ice cream. A handful of carrots in place of those potato chips. And more whole grains across the board.
Barley risotto has all the wonderfully creamy steaminess of traditional risotto (which is typically made with Arborio rice), with the added benefits of toothsome texture and plenty of fiber. The sweet onions and salty cheese build plenty of flavor in this tasty risotto. Although lovely as is, this risotto is also fantastic topped with a few grilled shrimp for a special meal.
Roasted Onion Barley Risotto
Serves 4 as a side dish or starter
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
3 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the sliced onion with half the oil and roast on a baking sheet until soft and slightly browned at the edges, about 10-15 minutes. Toss the hot roasted onion with the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, sauté the garlic in the remaining oil over medium heat until fragrant. Add the tomato paste to the garlic. Add the barley and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer until evaporated. Add half a cup of the stock, and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is mostly gone. Add the remaining stock by the half cup, stirring often, until the barley is tender and only a small amount of liquid remains. Stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the onions. Serve hot with extra cheese, if desired.