Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms (or Peas)

Who doesn’t love risotto?  Think about it – rich, creamy, cheesy (optional) deliciousness…how could you go wrong?  Well, except for the fact that the typically used Arborio rice doesn’t really fit into that good-for-you whole grain category.  I’ve seen lots of blog recipes over the years that substitute the rice for barley, but I had yet to try it.  Tonight was the night.

When I found this recipe I realized I already had everything on hand, and when that happens (especially after a work meeting that leads to an alternate, and much longer drive home) you have to take advantage.

This is a little time consuming, as most risottos are, but it’s worth it.  Trust me.  Although I will say, if you don’t like the chewier texture of barley, this may not be the recipe for you.

(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
12 oz cleaned, sliced cremini mushrooms (I omitted – mushrooms, yuck!)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used 1 Tbsp dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (I used a ½ tsp dried)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley
6 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken broth + ½ cup white wine)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I omitted)
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded (I used ¾ cup)

**I added about 1 cup of petite peas instead of the mushrooms, and considering all my other tweaks, I think I can follow my change-three-ingredients rule and call this one another Steph original!**

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they have released all of their liquid and are golden brown, about 10 minutes. You can add 1 to 3 tablespoons of water if they start to stick. (If you are adding peas instead, do not add them until the last few minutes of cooking).
3. Stir in the herbs and garlic, then add the barley and stir to coat for 1 minute. Add 4 cups of the broth and bring to a boil over high heat.
4. Cook for 15-18 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Reduce the heat to medium and add more broth, ½ cup at a time, plus the wine, stirring until each addition is absorbed, until the barley is tender but still slightly firm. You may not use all of the broth, but you will use most of it. (Now add peas)
5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and cheese, stirring until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

I served this with a simple piece of sautéed chicken and a glass of nice crisp white wine. Delish!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fish with White Wine Sauce, Quinoa and Peas Please...

After a weekend of eating out for every meal (with the exception of a delicious bacon, egg & cheese sandwich on Saturday morning –mmmm, bacon from Eastern Market!), all I wanted to do after work today was make a tasty homemade dinner. 

Several months ago I was at a friend’s cabin for the weekend.  He loves to cook so I knew I was going to be eating well.  He made a great lunch of fish with a white wine butter sauce.  Well, not only do I enjoy cooking, but I also enjoy watching others cook, so I made sure to watch closely when he made the sauce as I knew I’d want to replicate that one at home.  I’ve been trying to eat more fish and this sauce definitely helps me do that!

If you’re familiar with buerre blanc sauce, this is basically the same thing, with just a few tweaks.  Buerre blanc is generally made with white wine, butter, shallots and often lemon juice.  This omits the shallots and adds milk and cream.  Here’s the concoction:

½ cup white wine – I have used Sauvignon Blanc and Vinho Verde and both came out well
cup milk – I use 1%
¼ cup light cream
2-3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
Couple shakes of good quality garlic powder
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
S&P to taste

Combine all ingredients except the butter.  Stirring frequently, let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add the butter and allow it to melt in.  Continue stirring and simmering for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly (it will coat the back of a spoon).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If the combination of the wine and lemon juice is a little too tangy you can add a pinch of sugar.  Keep sauce warm until ready to serve.

2-3 mahi-mahi filets – will be good with any white flaky fish
Olive oil for pan
S&P (optional)

Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat and add filets.  Add a couple shakes of salt & pepper to each filet and let sauté without moving for about 4 minutes.  Flip carefully and cook another 4 minutes or just until cooked through.


Toast ½ cup quinoa in sauce pan with olive oil and ¼ cup minced onion.  After 3-5 minutes when the onions start to become translucent, add ¾ cup water or chicken stock.  Stir, cover and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until tender and liquid has evaporated. 

*Directions on the box of quinoa generally don’t tell you to toast it first, but a friend of mine lived in Bolivia where quinoa is a major crop.  There, they toast it first and she taught me to do the same.  It brings out a great nutty flavor you don’t get by immediately adding the liquid.

To bring everything together…

Steam some peas; they are the perfect veg for this dish.  Plate the fish, quinoa and peas and ladle the sauce over everything!!  This is a deliciously healthy meal, and a perfect way to start the week.
Monday, May 2, 2011


For almost a year now (or possibly longer) I've been staring at a large dead cactus in the pot in my bedroom.  At least once a week I would say to myself, "Alright, this weekend I'm going to get rid of that and plant something."  And did I ever do it?  Of course not.  

Then, a couple months ago I was at the Italian Store with a friend grabbing a sub and I saw some seeds for San Marzano Roma Tomatoes.  Definitely something I would use on a regular basis, so I bought them.  Did I come home, clean out the pot and plant the seeds?  Of course not.

But FINALLY, last week I went to Frager's (best hardware store ever!) and picked up some potting soil, went home and took care of business.  And now, just a week later, look what I have.....tomato sprouts!!

I'll keep you posted on their progress  :)