I must admit that risotto is one of my favorite things, so I was pleased to find a recipe that was tasty but more nutritious that the traditional butter and cheese filled arborio rice version.  This recipe was borrowed from the LCBO Food and Drink magazine, Winter 2009 issue.

Beet and Barley Risotto

1 c. pot barley AND 3-4 c. chicken stock

1 T. olive oil AND 1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced AND 1 t. dried basil

1/2 t. salt AND freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 c. dry white wine, at room temperature

2 c. diced peeled beets (about 3 medium)

2 T.  lemon juice

1/4 to 1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled (or goat cheese)

Rinse the barley well in a sieve under running water, drain and set aside.  Normally for risotto, you’re supposed to heat the broth, keep it warm and ladle it into the mixture as needed, but honestly, I had a box of it at room temperature and used between 3 and 4 cups (I try to save enough for another sauce, like a stir-fry), and I free-poured it.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and saute it until it starts to soften. Add garlic, basil, salt and pepper and saute for a couple more minutes. Add barley and stir to coat well.  Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid is almost evaporated.

Stir in about 2 cups of the broth and the beets.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the beets are almost tender. Add a little more of the broth as needed to keep the mixture moist.

Uncover and simmer, adding broth, a small amount at a time as each addition is absorbed, and stirring often for 10-15 minutes longer or until the barley is tender with a slight bite and beets are more crunchy than mushy.  Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the pot at a steady simmer. You may need to add a little more broth (or hot water) if the mixture gets too thick before the barley is tender. Stir in the lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve sprinkled with cheese.

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