This recipe is such a warming, wonderful one for the fall and winter. It’s gorgeous with golden beets, but I’ve made it with red beets, too—it’s VERY pink, but that’s also fun! The combination of ginger and rosemary is a surprising one, but the flavor is just amazing. This recipe is based on one in Peter Berley’s fantastic book, Fresh Food Fast.
For the beets, you can either cook them with the barley, as directed below, or you can use beets that you’ve already roasted and peeled, just adding them at the end, after the barley is completely cooked. (See my beet salad recipe for instructions on roasting beets.)
I like to make the recipe a little bit ahead of time, so there’s about an hour before eating it for the barley to soak up even more of the cooking liquid, and the flavors to meld. As long as you salt this dish to your taste, I think there is plenty of flavor without adding cheese, but you can sprinkle Parmesan cheese on at the table if you like! The cabbage & fennel salad with apples & raisins is a great match with this risotto.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
3 medium golden beets, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 to 2 bunches chard, beet greens, or kale
1. In a large, heavy pot over high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt and sauté until the onion is starting to brown lightly—5 minutes or so. Add the barley, ginger, and rosemary and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the beets (unless they are already roasted—see note, above) and 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.
2. Cover the pot and simmer the barley over low heat, stirring fairly often (but you don’t need to be stirring it obsessively). You’ll need to add more water periodically to keep the barley from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the barley is tender and the beets are completely cooked. This will take something like 40 minutes, but just keep tasting to see how it’s coming along. The barley releases starches as it cooks, so at the end, you’ll have a beautiful creamy porridge-like risotto.
3. While the barley cooks, prepare the greens. Remove their stems and chop the leaves into ½-inch slices. If you’re using kale (I recommend it!), you’ll need to blanch it, first. Boil it in a pot of salted water until tender (5-8 minutes—just keep tasting it).
4. When the barley is tender and creamy, add the greens to the pot, and if they were raw when you added them, cook, uncovered, stirring often, until the greens are tender (3 to 5 minutes). If the beets were already roasted, add them now. Taste for salt. Make sure to add enough to really bring the flavors up. Season with pepper to taste.
5. If you have time to cover it and let it rest for a 30 minutes to an hour before serving, do so. Reheat just before serving.