It’s been quite sometime since I’ve made risotto, which is remarkable as it is one of my favorite dishes! Needless to say I was craving it, & this baked version features pearl barley, butternut squash, kale, & lemon juice for a rich & creamy dish that is bursting with texture & flavor.
In an effort to clean out the fridge before my raw new year’s cleanse, I’ve been in “clean-out-the-fridge mode.” That means cherry cobbler for breakfast, snacking on my last piece of chocolate tart through out the day, polishing off the last of the Candy Cane Joe Joe’s, you get the picture. I do have some healthy stuff on had too, mind you – a butternut squash & beautiful bunch of kale from the farmers’ market – & with all this sugary snacking a nourishing dinner was in order. It’s a cold & rainy evening, & comfort cravings are calling, & thought a nice pot of risotto would certainly hit the spot. The only problem? I was fresh out of arborio rice, & in no mood to venture out to the store. What I did have on hand, however, was a bag of pearl barley, & recalled at some point or another seeing a recipe for barely risotto, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’d planned on making this risotto from Love & Lemons, & but plans were changing, so did a search for “barley risotto” & found this recipe recipe from Real Simple. I decided to combine the two ideas & come up with my own little twist.
Another twist, this risotto is wine free (gasp)! As I gear up for my cleanse, I’ve been slowly cutting things out of my diet & wine was the first to go. Risotto & wine go hand in hand – that little bit of acidity gives the risotto a nice flavor, & drinking wine while I stir is my favorite part of the process. But, since I’m not drinking, & I’m not stirring, a substitution for wine needed to be made, & that’s where lemon comes in. I thought that the lemon juice would provide that bit of acidity, while adding some brightness to this rich & creamy treat. I also zested the lemon to add as a garnish to the finished dish.
- 2 Tbsps. olive oil
- 1 small butternut squash—peeled, seeded, & cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek sliced, white & green parts
- kosher salt & black pepper
- 1 cup pearl barley
- juice of ½ a lemon
- 3 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth
- 5 ounces kale, chopped
- ½ cup vegan mozzarella cheese
- 1 Tbsp. vegan butter
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped sage
- 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- zest of one lemon
- red pepper flakes
- Heat oven to 400° F. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, leek, a dash of salt & pepper & cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Add the barley to the vegetables & cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the lemon juice & stirring about 1 minute. Add broth & bring to a boil; cover the pot & transfer it to oven. Bake until the barley is tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Stir in the kale, mozzarella, butter, herbs, & salt & pepper to taste. To serve, top with pine nuts, lemon zest, & a pinch of red pepper flakes.