Happy Friday, friends! What are you up to this weekend? We will be getting our hands dirty in our garden, prepping the beds for a sprinkling of lettuce seeds to hit the soil next week. So exciting! Nothing says "Spring!" like a Saturday spent in the yard. I've got my fingers crossed, hoping that the blue sky I see outside of my window sticks around!
Looking ahead at all of the fresh, green produce arriving in the next couple of months made me realize that I've been holding out on you. I really couldn't let Winter completely slip away without sharing this favorite recipe with you all. This hearty little risotto has made an appearance on our table multiple times these last few months and we just can't seem to get enough of it! In fact, there are leftovers in the refrigerator right now, and I am very much looking forward to lunch.
Mushrooms and I got along very well this Winter. That's a change for me, as I've never been a big fan of the stinky fungi. Not that I had anything against them, but I didn't actively seek them out for recipes. Something happened this year, though, and I found myself picking up a half-pound of fresh Cremini mushrooms nearly every week. Usually they were for this risotto, but also for empanadas, and veggie burgers, and a lasagna I haven't yet shared. What I love about the mushrooms in this recipe is that they really are the perfect mate for barley, which replaces the arborio rice typically found in risotto. Both lend an earthiness to the dish that you expect, but they also complement each other texturally. The barley remains a bit firm, providing the slightest resistance as you chew, while the mushrooms are silky and smooth and nearly melt on the tongue. The whole process is relatively quick and simple, not requiring the constant stirring like a traditional risotto, but also makes an impressive side dish for company.
Enjoy the weekend...get outside!
Mushroom Barley Risotto
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
8 ounces cleaned and sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Saute' onion until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add all mushrooms and saute' until golden brown, about 10 minutes, adding 1 to 3 tbsp water if they start to stick.
Stir in herbs and garlic, then add barley and stir for 1 minute. Add 4 cups of the broth and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until each addition is absorbed, until barley is tender but still slightly firm. You may not use all of the broth, but you will use most of it. This whole process, from the time you add the first broth, should take 35-40 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and add butter and cheese, stirring until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Winter and I have had a rocky go of it this year. We’ve waffled back and forth in a love / hate relationship that rivals the one I’ve currently got going on with my gym membership. On one hand, I’ve loved the quiet beauty a good snowstorm lays gently across my world and the resulting desire to cozy up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a season of Entourage. On the other, I am tired of feeling stuck indoors, the outside ice, mud and frigid air enough to keep me hibernating under a quilt with the lights turned low. The result has been a bit too much cozying, and my motivation to cook, write, or log miles on the treadmill seems to be hiding in the same dark place as the sun. I am lost in the monotony of February, floating through scenes of white and gray, desperately seeking a reprieve in the form of a warm day, tiny chartreuse buds on the backyard Maple tree, fresh produce from local farmers that isn’t squash or cabbage.
There have been some brighter moments lately, a few shrieks of excitement released from my heart after witnessing the sun pierce a hazy layer of clouds, revealing a small patch of brilliant blue sky. I was thrilled to notice last week that two copper-toned birds have chosen to make a nest in the cold, drab ally outside my office window, and just this morning heard a woman excitedly discussing the yellow crocuses popping out from under a blanket of snow in her yard. All are sure signs of Spring’s impending arrival and moments I am desperate to capture permanently. Should snow fall again in the coming weeks I’d like to have a photograph stashed away in my back pocket to remind me that the end is near, that productivity will return with a sunshine-filled sky and baby birds chirping on the sill.
In the meantime, the meals I am managing to cook seem to have several similar qualities. They are simple. They are hearty and warm and filling. They incorporate some ingredient that brightens the dish at multiple levels; to the eyes, to the nose, to the tongue. Whether it be golden citrus tossed in a salmon salad, vibrant leeks bobbing amongst emerald isles of kale, the scent of fresh lime wafting from my oven, each recipe is very carefully chosen to lift our spirits and carry us through these last (25!) days of Winter.
This salad is no exception to my new rules. Hearty grains are joined by warm, earth-scented mushrooms to create a salad base as warm and satisfying as a family quilt enveloping shivering shoulders. Jewel-toned grape tomatoes and bright flecks of fresh parsley are the harbingers of this dish, reminders that Spring, followed closely by Summer, will be joining us soon. Served over a bed of spicy arugula and layered with shavings of Pecorino Toscano, this salad makes for a lovely, filling, early dinner, and is best enjoyed beside a window in the rays of Winter's setting sun.
Warm Barley Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mushrooms
4 oz Pecorino Toscano, feta or goat cheese, diced or crumbled (I used a hard pecorino, shaved over the top of the salad)
Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 425*.
Toss the mushrooms, tomatoes, shallots and 2 tbsp of the oil together on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toast the veggies, stirring once, until the mushrooms and shallots are browned nicely, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, bring water, barley and pinch of salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy, about 30 minutes. Drain the barley well in a strainer and transfer to a large bowl.
Toss the barley with the remaining 3 tbsp oil until coated evenly. Add the roasted vegetables and parsley and toss to combine. Cool slightly and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the arugula or spinach among four large plates. Spoon warm barley salad over each plate, sprinkle with cheese, and serve.
Store barley salad separately from arugula or spinach and reheat for lunch the next day, if desired.
March is a big birthday month in our household. We kick it off right with Brian's at the very beginning, end it with mine and have a whole slew of friend and family celebrations in between. I've never attempted to actually calculate the numbers, but if I had to guess I would say that 30-40% of the birthdays we actively celebrate fall within March. That means a lot of cake and cocktails, which, following a winter of heavy comfort foods makes the whole month seem like a last hurrah for indulgent eats before the panic of a looming swimsuit season sets in. The mostly dreary weather of March has put a damper on my running habit as well. Although the coldest temperatures of the month are typically much higher than those in January and February, the occasional 60* teaser days make the moderately cold ones completely unbearable. I have a hard time motivating myself to tie my shoes and hit the road on a 40*, overcast evening (which in February would have felt downright warm) when my previous run had me in shorts and a tank top.And now here I am on the eve before the start of April, my legs sore from last night’s run after the prior week’s hiatus, my mouth craving a sweet because its become a daily habit and, dare I say, my body a couple of pounds heavier than it was just one month ago. I started this blog originally to hold me accountable in my healthy eating and exercise habits, but found (along with an amazing community of people and many new friends) that the creative aspects of photographing and writing about food were more compelling for me than the keeping of a food diary.
Its been about a month since I switched formats, and although the timing may have been poor what with all of the celebrations that March holds, I think the changes I've seen in my daily habits prove a point. Food diaries work. At least for me they do, which is why I'll be keeping a closer tab on myself starting tomorrow. But don't worry, I won't be switching things up on you again. I really love the direction the blog is heading and from the positive feedback I've received, I think you do to. What you will be seeing are some lighter, healthier, simpler and hopefully more economical recipes popping up on Bella Eats this month, starting with this one.
This soup was delicious. So good that Brian and I haven't been able to stop talking about it for two days. Its very simple, using ingredients that we always have on hand - carrots, celery, onion, canned beans, canned tomatoes, dried mushrooms, dried grains, good olive oil and fresh herbs are staples in our kitchen. The mushrooms added such a wonderful earthiness to the broth that I don't know if I'll ever be able to make vegetable soup without mushrooms again. And the infused olive oil adds so much depth. Please - please - don't leave it out. You won't be sorry.
Mushroom White Bean Soup with Rosemaryrecipe inspired by keep it simple foods and the new york times
1/2 oz porcini mushrooms, dried
6 cups veggie or chicken broth (I used chicken)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, cut in half and sliced into 1/4" pieces
3 celery stalks, sliced into 1/4" pieces
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (15oz)
1/2 cup quick cooking barley
2 cans cannelini or navy beans (15oz each), drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
First make infused olive oil, recipe below. It will need to sit for 2 hours before serving, so be sure to plan ahead.
Boil 2 cups of water. Place dried mushrooms in a glass bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for 30 minutes. Place a fine mesh strainer over a separate bowl. Lift mushrooms out of water and squeeze over strainer, collecting liquid in second bowl. Rinse mushrooms in strainer with cold water and squeeze out excess over sink. Chop mushrooms and set aside. Pour the mushroom soaking water through the strainer into the second bowl. Add water as necessary to make 2 cups. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom soup pot. Add the onion, carrots and celery and saute' for 5-7 minutes, until starting to tenderize. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and saute' an additional 30 seconds.
Add the chicken broth, mushroom liquid, chopped mushrooms and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce to a heavy simmer and add the barley. Continue to simmer for 12-15 minutes until the barley is tender. Add the beans and salt + pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with rosemary + porcini oil drizzled on top.
Rosemary and Porcini Infused Olive Oilrecipe modified from bon appetit
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 whole garlic clove
1/2 oz porcini mushrooms, dried
Place mushrooms in a strainer. Rinse under hot water and drain well. Pat dry.
Combine mushrooms, oil, rosemary and whole garlic clove in small, heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat until thermometer inserted into oil registers 180*F, about 8 minutes. (I am currently without a thermometer so left my oil on for 9 minutes, just in case).
Remove from heat, cover and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Oil can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.
Thank YouAll for the great comments you write on my posts, they really make my day! Welcome to my new readers who have found your way here from Tastespotting and Foodgawker, I look forward to hearing from more of you and to sharing some simple, healthy recipes with you this month. Enjoy!
Happy Sunday evening! Sorry I haven't posted all day...it was a busy one! :)
This morning I woke up craving cereal, as is usual lately. I mixed 1/2 cup Kashi Heart to Heart with 1/2 cup Back to Nature Maple Nut Medley. I topped it off with the golden raspberries I got from my garden yesterday, pom seeds that I slaved over this morning and Silk plain soymilk. These were my first pom seeds of the season....so yum!!! (and pretty!)
Brian and I decided to go apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard, about 10 minutes from our house. Its so beautiful at the top of the mountain, the perfect place to go in the fall for an overlook of Charlottesville.
I love fall in Virginia!!! [but am angry at the black speck on my lense :( ]
The best part.......we picked Pink Ladies!!!!!!!! My FAVORITES!
13 pounds of beautiful Pinks.....I am a happy happy girl. :)
And of course I had to eat one while we were picking...who could resist?
We also gathered 5 pounds of granny smith apples from the bin so that I can make Brian's Nana's famous apple crisp.
After a lovely morning apple picking trip I had a vinyasa yoga class at Studio 206. Hilary is my favorite instructor and the class was WONDERFUL. I felt so loose and gushy and fabulous afterwards. :) I snacked on a chocolate chip Clif Z-Bar immediately after class because I was starving! This was my first Z-Bar and I LOVED IT! It tasted just like a chocolate chip cookie. Now, it could have been my ultra-serene, after-yoga state of mind, but I'm pretty sure I will love these bars no matter the situation!
Unfortunately I had to work for a few hours this afternoon, so I packed my lunch this morning before our apple picking trip. A veggie wrap with
whole wheat tortilla
2 tbsp roasted garlic hummus
red bell pepper slices
And a side of leftover quinoa.
It was yummy and filling and got me through my afternoon of work.
For dinner I wanted to try a Mushroom Barley Risotto recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop. I love that he substitutes barley for arborio rice in the risotto because barley has much greater nutritional value and was a wonderful, earthy compliment to the mushrooms. FYI, the barley takes a bit longer than arborio to cook.
Brian made lacinato kale as a side dish...another of my favorites!
I also had 2 small glasses of wine...
The meal was great, but risotto is very time-consuming and not something that I cook very often.
Whew! I'm beat!!! And...today I was tagged by Amy at CoffeeTalk! Which means that I have some interesting facts to come up with about myself....I will post tomorrow on that.