Author Notes: This dish could be called vegan, if you're taken with labels, and if you choose vegetable stock over chicken. It will take no time at all to put together, and will feed the lot of roughly 2 - 4. Begin your pursuit with the gather of these few things: —fo
1.5 cups pearled barley
8 cups stock, preferably homemade, chicken or vegetable, you decide
Enough summer squash that when diced, equals 2 cups
Enough dandelion greens that when chopped, equals 2 cups
2/3 cup shelled, frozen edamame
1/2 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup coconut milk (don't use low-fat)
3 TB dry white wine
2 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs marjoram
- Heat your stock on the back burner. You always want to use a hot stock when making risotto. If you use cold stock, it will result in hard, uncooked grains that will not release their starches.
- 2) Dice the onion. Heat about one TB olive oil in a pan, add the onion and cook over medium flame. You want to sweat the onion rather than brown it, so watch the heat. When the onion is tender, add the barley and saute. It will begin to smell toasty and turn light brown.
- Deglaze the pan with 2 TB of the white wine and cook till it has been fully absorbed by the barley.
- Begin to add the stock by the ladleful. I used a ladle that holds 1/2 cup of liquid.
- When you drag your spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a trail, you know that it is time to add more stock. Never leave your risotto unattended. You need to add the stock at precisely the right time or you will end up with unevenly cooked grains. This is one dish to which you must devote your undivided attention and pamper into being.
- Rinse your edamame in a mesh strainer with cold water. This will thaw the beans.
- Get your diced summer squash into a separate pan with the garlic, a splash of olive oil and salt to taste. Over medium flame, cook until just soft, then kill the fire. No color here, and don't overcook.
- Strip the leaves from your herb stems and rough chop. Get the herbs and edamame into the pan. The residual heat will cook the edamame and bloom the herbs.
- Back to the barley. You may or may not need all of the stock as required. It depends on how thirsty your grains are. If you find that you are running out of stock before the barley is sufficiently cooked, go ahead and add a little water to the pot, and keep ladling as you were. If the grains are cooked and there is stock left over, do not be tempted to add the rest to the pan merely to use it up or you can kiss your risotto goodbye and have soup for supper instead.
- A note on salting risotto. It's one of those dishes that you season toward the end, because it is easy to over salt given that you are concentrating the stock as you cook the grains. As well, most people do add cheese to the finish, which can alone season the dish with its salt content. I have made risotto that needed no additional salt after adding the cheese. Try this: When the grains are about 80% done, go ahead and get some salt into the pan. You can safely adjust the seasoning at the finish. Back to your barley.
- Your risotto is done when the grains are tender but al dente. That means 'to the teeth', in Italian. Meaning, you don't want mush. There should be some body in those grains, and a lovely, unctuous sauce in the pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
- Stir your dandies and veg into the barley. The greens will wilt in a minute. Then pour in a splash of white wine, about 1 TB, cook it out for about 30 seconds, and add about 1 TB of olive oil and the coconut milk. Stir all this in. The finished barley should be rich and creamy. Now would be the time to add cheese, if you are not vegan, or not into labels.