If you’re craving a vegetarian recipe with the flavors of the season, this pearl barley risotto is a must-try. A fall risotto featuring a hearty, whole grain along with apples, this one ticks all the boxes for ease, nutrition and great flavor.
A romantic risotto recipe
Our regular contributor, Chef Annette Tomei, gave me this barley recipe years ago, not to feature on the site but for my personal enjoyment. But as time went on, I began to see this recipe not just as healthy comfort food but also date night food. Cheesy barley risotto definitely doesn’t fall into the stereotype of romantic dinner recipes. But the risotto’s combination of creamy, crunchy, salty and sweet elements give it sensual appeal. And many of the ingredients in this pearl barley recipe, although common, are among the world’s most popular aphrodisiacs.
Aphrodisiac ingredients in this date night risotto
Apple is not just known as the fruit of temptation. Recent studies show that it may be one of the greatest aphrodisiacs for women. One recent study found that women who eat an apple a day have more satisfying sex than non apple eaters. Here’s more the history and science behind the apple’s aphrodisiac reputation. Additional aphrodisiacs in this recipe include garlic, Parmesan and thyme.
The health benefits of making risotto with barley
When you look at a bag of uncooked barley, you don’t really think, “sexual desire.” But barley, the main ingredient in this healthy risotto, is fuel for your libido. According to Medical News Daily, one serving of barley offers over 50% of your daily intake of fiber. Now this won’t suddenly put you in a mood for loving. But fiber banishes bloat and helps you feel energized and sexy.
Barley boosts sexual health
There are also some nutrients in barley that have the potential to boost sexual hormone production. It is an excellent source of manganese and selenium. It is also a source of potassium, iron and magnesium. And for those who are trying to conceive, it is a natural source of folate.
Is there a best kind of risotto barley?
Obviously barley is not the best risotto rice if you’re looking to make a traditional, creamy risotto. (Barley is, in fact, not a rice at all.) Traditional risotto is made with medium to short grain, Italian rice like arborio rice. Arborio is a high-starch rice, which is what gives it that creamy texture. But like most “white foods,” it isn’t particularly nutrient rich.
Understanding types of barley
Barley, as I mentioned above, is known for nutrition. Of the two types commonly used in cooking, hulled barley is the most nutritious. This whole grain offers over 12 grams of protein per serving. However, it is an extremely dense and chewy grain that isn’t really appropriate for a creamy risotto.
Pearled barley risotto
That is why Annette’s recipe is a pearled barley risotto. This grain is basically hulled barley that’s been peeled of the bran layers, or pearled. It makes for a less dense, pleasantly chewy and easy to cook grain. And it still boasts more nutrition than you’d get from an arborio risotto. (If you would like to learn more about barley types, the Whole Grains Council offers this enlightening barley chart.)
And in addition to giving the dish an extra boost of nutrition, swapping out arborio or one of the other common risotto rices for pearled barley also gives this barley dinner recipe a unique texture and greater depth of flavor. Barley’s slightly nutty notes give balance to the sweetness of the apple. In addition, using barley makes for an easy risotto recipe as the grain is a little less finicky than arborio and more forgiving if you don’t cook it for the precise, right amount of time.
For a vegan barley risotto
If you want to make this barley risotto vegan, you’ll have to do some substituting but it’s possible. The easy part is swapping out the butter for a vegan, non-dairy butter substitute. As for the cheese, that’s really up to your taste. Although the cheese augments the dish’s creamy texture, you might want to skip it entirely. Or try your favorite vegan shredded cheese and balance the final dish with a pinch of salt.
To Reheat this Pearl Barley Risotto
You can reheat this barley risotto recip in a microwave, however because it is a very cheesy barley risotto, the cheese tends to get gummy. Instead, I recommend using a stovetop method to heat up any leftovers. Simply combine the leftover risotto with a couple of teaspoons of water in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until it is completely warm. This should take anywhere from 2-5 minutes, depending on how much risotto you are warming. Enjoy it as a midnight snack, easy lunch or even a savory breakfast.
Barley Risotto with Apples and Parmesan
- 2 cup diced peeled apples
- 2 Tbsp butter
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves chopped
- 2 cup vegetable stock
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 small onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- rounded 2/3 c pearl barley rinsed, drained
- 1 1/2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Brown the apples in butter in a large sauté pan. Season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Set aside.
- Bring broth to simmer in saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in large sauce pan. Add onion and garlic, sauté until tender.
- Add barley, stir until coated with butter, about 1 minute.
- Add broth a little at a time (about 1/4 cup is good); simmer, stirring often, until broth is absorbed.
- Add remaining broth in the same manner, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until barley is tender, but still firm to bite, about 40 to 50 minutes.
- Add apples and Parmesan cheese, then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
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