Everyone loves risotto ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

21 December 2010

Everyone loves risotto

So here's one thing you can make with your new and exciting pot of veg broth: risotto.

I made this batch of risotto about a month ago, when tomatoes were still plentiful at the farmers' market. Tomatoes are particularly pleasing to use in risotto, as they melt into the finished product, supplying both excellent color and concentrated flavor. Of course, now it is December, and tomatoes are no longer the vegetable of choice. In fact, it's a little difficult to apply winter vegetables to risotto effectively, although a hot exciting bowl of grain is clearly suited to cold weather. The top contenders for winter substitution are 1. winter squash, 2. beets, and 3. hardy greens. Precook any root vegetables--roasting is good--but washed, chopped greens can cook in the risotto itself.

I've talked about using barley in risotto plenty of times, but here's the main rundown: barley tastes just as good as arborio rice, but is cheaper, healthier, and more easily available. Do it!


veg broth
olive oil
dry vermouth/white wine
the last of the good tomatoes (or frozen ones, or winter subs)
thyme (or other herbs to match your subs)
salt, pepper
good grating cheese

I've written about risotto over and over. This iteration is no different.

First, put broth on to boil. Let it simmer constantly throughout the process; add more water as needed.

Next, saute onion with olive oil in a deep pan. When it's softened, add a cup of barley and a cup of cooking alcohol. I use dry vermouth as the standard cooking addition, but a dry white wine will also work. Actually, you can make risotto with red wine if you want, but I prefer white, as it's a lot more subtle.

Stir the barley and wine around, letting the grain slowly absorb the oniony oil and the liquid. Once the mix starts to look dry, add in a cup of stock and a couple branches of thyme (or other study herbs). As each addition gets absorbed, add in another cup of stock. Contrary to popular belief, a risotto does not need to be stirred 100% of the time. Just give it a stir every few minutes to make sure the liquid is being absorbed evenly and the bottom of the pan isn't scorching.

As you add more and more broth, the barley will gradually cook. First, the outer layer of each grain will turn translucent, and you'll be able to see the hard core in the middle. As the barley cooks, its color will become more consistent.

Adding the vegetables: when the grains are about 2/3 of the way cooked, add your tomatoes. Precooked root veg can go in at about this time as well. Add any more tender vegetables (green beans, peas, etc.) near the end of cooking. Really delicate greens, parsley, & etc. can go in off the heat at the very end; they'll wilt in quickly.

You will notice that I am too lazy to skin the tomatoes, and that the skins therefore come off during cooking and curl into little rolls. You may care about this enough to skin your tomatoes (in short: cut a cross in the skin, submerge in boiling water 30 seconds, pull off split skin), or just to use pre-skinned tomatoes out of a can, but I don't.

When your barley is cooked through, take the pan off the heat. Fish the thyme branches out of the pan and add any last-minute ingredients: salt, pepper, and grated parmesan are standard. I put in some extra raw thyme leaves, because I had plenty and they are great. Thyme and tomatoes, by the way, definitely win.

Stir everything together, whack into bowls, and eat.

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