Something Warm Waiting for You


It's official: The temperatures are falling. So what coulld be better for dinner than a bowl of barley mushroom rissotto.


The forecast is for freezing rain today. It’s official, fall is falling (along with the temperatures) and I know when I get home tonight I’m going to want something warm waiting for me. I choose soup, and more specifically, mushroom and barley soup.
What most people don’t realize is that barley is one of the oldest grains on the planet and as a super healthy food, it also wins for the highest fiber content of all the whole grains.
Barley’s been on the menu for a long time but it’s not native to the new world; it first arrived in America with good old Chris Columbus. It was used for food and fodder for stock but didn’t really catch on as a money maker for farmers until the English and Scandinavian settlers decided they wanted to start making beer, ale and lager like they did in the old country.
Barley has a mildly sweet nutty-earthy taste. Pearled barley is the kind you’ll probably find at your neighborhood grocery and is the easiest to prepare. A great alternative is using whole grain barley. It’s a bit more robust and less processed and has more fiber but it does take a bit longer.
Before cooking your barley, rinse it thoroughly and then cook 1 part barley to 31⁄2 cups boiling water or broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the barley, reduce to a simmer, and cover and cook about an hour, until done.
Barley notes: Surprisingly, barley has gluten so anyone with celiac disease beware. 
Note: 1 cup of raw barley is equal to 3 to 4 cups cooked.
Barley Mushroom Risotto
6 cups vegetable broth
11⁄2 cups water
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 tsps. minced garlic
3 cups mixed wild mushrooms, coarsely chopped
11⁄2 cups pearl barley, rinsed
1⁄2 cup red wine
6 cups baby arugula or spinach
1⁄3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsps. balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan, combine the broth and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.
Heat oil in a large sauce pan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they begin to release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute more. Reduce heat to medium.
Add 1⁄2 cup hot broth to the barley and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding 1⁄2 cup hot broth at a time and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed after each addition, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until the barley is tender and creamy but still somewhat firm, 35 to 45 minutes. (You might not use all the broth.)
Stir in the arugula or spinach and cook, stirring, until it is wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese, butter and vinegar. Season with pepper.
Serves 6.


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