Asparagus is under ten dollars so spring must be coming. Hence, here’s my first asparagus dish of the year, adapted from Robin Robertson’s 1000 Vegan Recipes. You may enjoy traditional arborio risotto for its creamy, buttery, richness whether flavored with meat, fish or vegetables. This version, using barley instead of rice, is creamy, earthy, healthy and a heck of a lot faster than a traditional risotto. And because it contains asparagus, your guests will think it’s sort of fancy.
Avoid baseball bat asparagus and look for the slender kind. Slice on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces.
Don’t these mushroom slices remind you of early hominid skulls?
A few things to keep in mind about this dish: It’s really earthy so plan accompanying dishes accordingly. (i.e. Don’t serve it with lentils. Maybe a crispy salad with a vinaigrette) It uses a dry white wine which will be great to serve alongside. (Although a pinot noir might be good too). When the recipe says to ‘cover and cook for 5 minutes,’ you should really cover and cook it. The mushrooms release liquid so the contents won’t stick to the pan, and covering really makes the dish more aromatic. If you, like me, want your asparagus risotto to have green asparagus in it, rather than chartreuse globby tongues, reserve some extra stalks of steamed asparagus to add once the dish is cooked. Oh well, next time….
Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms
(adapted from Robin Robertson, 1000 Vegan Recipes)
makes 4 servings
2 T olive oil
3/4 lb thin asparagus, ends trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
8 oz white or baby bello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c pearl barley
1 t dried thyme
1/2 c dry white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc but you could also use a pinot grigio or whatever)
3 c hot vegetable broth (I use a vegan boullion for quick dishes like this)
salt and pepper to taste (don’t skip this)
1 T fresh lemon juice (I put this in almost everything I cook. It’s optional)
1. In a medium saucepan with steamer insert, bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil. Take 1/3 of the asparagus, place it in the steamer and cover. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the spears are bright green. Remove and set aside to cool.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the remaining asparagus, mushrooms and garlic. cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the barley and stir to coat with oil. Add the thyme and wine and stir gently until the liquid is absorbed.
3. Add the broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring until liquid is absorbed before each addition. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring frequently, until creamy. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and reserved asparagus. Serve immediately.