Barley is Gnarly

butternut squash and barley risotto with cheese

Oh how the tables have turned. It wasn’t long ago that Chris was sitting at home playing his video games while I was busy crafting pies or pasta in the kitchens at school. We’ve since traded places – me chillin’ at home, him – well, not learning to make pasta – but learning whatever it is he’s learning en route to his MBA. Either way, he’s mad busy these days – if not in class he’s working on something for class. Which leaves me time for – you guessed it – cooking for numero uno. Yes, me!

Which reminds me, in addition to free time for cooking, I’ve also finally had enough spare time to move my blog to another host. Please forgive the organized chaos. I’ve ironed out a lot of the tweaks, but still have a few to go. In the meantime though, let’s talk about some food now, shall we?

barleydiced onions

We all love risotto, right? I know I do. I mean really, what’s not to like? Rice slow-cooked to a rich, creamy but still somewhat firm consistency – with additions of almost anything you could conjure up. And why stop with changing around the vegetables and proteins? I figured, why not shake it up a bit more and try a different grain – maybe it’s not your traditional risotto, but it sure tastes good.

Besides, why stop at beer when it comes to barley? In granular form, it may not offer that malted flavor we brewsky drinkers fervently enjoy, but it does have some other admirable qualities. For one, eating barley can help to regulate blood sugar for up to 10 hours post-consumption. Rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber (both soluble and insoluble), it wins against plain old rice any day of the week. What does it taste like? Chewy and crunchy, nutty and earthy – similar to brown rice but even more satisfying.

apricots,currants,parsleybarley risotto

I know – I’m not the first person to make barley risotto – and I hope not the last. If you haven’t tried barley, or any of these other fancy grains – I challenge you to give them a try. Give that arborio and that box of Uncle Ben’s a break, will ya? Pretty please, and thank you.

Need a little more guidance? Some more inspiration perchance? Check here for a recipe using farro (lovely, just like barley but gluten-free as barley is not), and check here for a quinoa salad. Have you made something with any other grains? Kamut? Wheat berries? Amaranth? Leave a link or two (or even three, if you please) in the comments section and share away!

butternut squash and risottobutternut squash barley risotto plated

Barley & Butternut Squash Risotto
Original from; serves 4

 printable version

3 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 c water
1 lb butternut squash, cubed into 1/2-inch pieces
olive oil, for drizzling over squash
1 t 5 spice powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t cayenne pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, small dice
1 c pearled barley
1 t garlic, minced
1/2 c dried fruit (I used 1/4 currants, 1/4 apricots)
salt & pepper
1/4 c pecorino-romano cheese, shredded
1 T basil, chopped
2 T pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 F

Mix broth and water together, heat in medium saucepan; keep warm

Mixed cubed squash with ~2T olive oil and spices (5 spice, cinnamon, cayenne). Spread on baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in medium-sized Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Throw in onion and cook for ~5 minutes; add garlic and cook ~1 minute. Add barley and let cook 1-2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, and begin adding 1 ladle-full (1/2-1 c) of broth/water mixture at a time, stirring (almost) constantly until liquid is almost dissolved. Continue until barley is cooked, about 30 minutes. (There may be some broth mix leftover)

Remove risotto from heat, add in roasted squash & dried fruit. Top with cheese, herbs, nuts and season with salt and pepper.


3 thoughts on “Barley is Gnarly

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