So here’s a little eating-out confession: When we go out to restaurants, no matter how old-school posh or hot-new-It-chef-on-a-grungy-block, I rarely find myself moved to exclamation points over a piece of steak or a pasta dish; instead, it most of my ooh-ing and aah-ing is formed over the earnest piles of beans and grains and greens that form a bed for the main attraction. I’m always applauding the way a chef managed to get such flavorful beans, grains and even unloved greens, cooked so perfectly that I clean them out long before I stick my fork into the duck breast. I guess what I am trying to say is: A lot of people cook steak well. Making kale and wheat germ taste like nirvana itself is what really blows my mind.
It’s also, sadly, the place where the gap between what I pay others to cook and what I whip up at home is the greatest. I miss those sauces — those puddles of concentrated buttery rich brothy flavor! I want to splash in them! — I miss all of the in between spaces on my plate. I vow to conquer that this year. Bring on the puddles!
With this dish, I’m proud to say I’m getting there. I’ve been wanted to make a loose barley risotto for months, the kind that would invite other ingredients and interpretations in, but only now that’s it so cold and uninviting out that I’ve slowed down enough to get to some good old-fashioned pot-stirring. Barley doesn’t get as creamy as short-grained rice does when you cook it risotto-style, but seeing as I find a lot of risottos overly heavy and creamy, for me, this is a plus. Monkeying around (ahem!) by adding “stuff” to it was fun, and really, could be anything you had on hand, in my case, some beans I’d auditioned in the slow-cooker, and some escarole, because it had been a while since I’d had any.
What we ended up was the kind of sauced-up treat I adore, and I won’t lie, the best part was that we didn’t have to
leave Jacob to fend for himself in front of the TV with a can of formula again arrange childcare + get gussied + brave this arctic January just shell out generously for it.
Barley, previously: Mushroom and Barley Pie, Barley, Corn and Haricot Vert Salad, Beef, Leek and Barley Soup and my absolute favorite of the lot, Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad
Thank you. I’ve really had my head in the sand the last few months and while I blinked, won some awards — including Blogger You Would Most Like To Cook A Meal For You (aww) in the FoodBuzz Awards and just today, Best Home Cooking Blog in Apartment Therapy’s Homies awards — and did not have the good manners to thank you for cheering me on. This would be no fun at all without you, and I’m honored daily that you welcome my dreary speckled countertop and craftily-grammared ramblings into your kitchens. Thank you!
One year ago: Fig and Walnut Biscotti
Two years ago: Goulash
Three years ago: Balthzar’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens
Adapted generously from Food and Wine
Be sure to use a low or no sodium broth; as the broth reduces and concentrates in flavor, a regular broth will yield a too-salty dish. I’ve learned the hard way many times! Only have a full salt broth or bouillon around? Swap some of the volume with water.
And do play around with this dish — try different broths, such as beef or mushroom. Skip the beans, swap a cooked vegetable. Use your favorite greens and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Add a clove of garlic, use shallots or leeks instead of onion. Use romano instead of parmesan, dollop in some crème fraîche at the end; use red wine or skip the wine. I know it can sometimes be overwhelming to have too many options but the possibilities here are really endless, and a little extra tinkering could make a staple out of this dish for you.
Serves 3 to 4 (most recipes would say 4; maybe we were just really hungry?)
5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 cup pearled barley (7 ounces)
1 cup beans, canned or precooked (white would be great; I used some Red Nightfall Beans mostly because they were languishing in my cabinet)
3 cups chopped escarole
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine if using and cook, stirring until absorbed, about one minute. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time in six additions — you’ll have a cup of stock left in the pot — stirring until it is nearly absorbed between additions. Most barley risottos are done when the barley is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 35 minutes, however, I like to take this one a little “soupier” adding another half to one cup of stock. (This gives the beans something to drink up, and you a margin of error if you grains continue to absorb the stock once you think they are done.) Stir it in until the risotto is on the loose side, then add the beans and let them cook for a minute. Add the escarole and let it wilt and then cook for an additional minute. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve at once, passing more cheese at the table.
Do ahead: Although it’s not generally ideal to reheat rice risottos, I actually enjoyed this barley one reheated. Keep the flame low, splash in some more broth if it seems thick and slowly warm the dish, stirring. Top with extra cheese.
Bean cooking wonder! Cooked my beans in the slow-cooker — they were perfect. No presoaking, just put them in covered with 2 to 3 inches of water for 3 hours on high. (You may need up to 4 hours with larger beans.) I let them cool in their cooking water, which was by then quite flavorful. They were dreamy.
277 comments on barley risotto with beans and greens
I love beans and grains! I see that you are having a love affair with your slow cooker now. I love reading your blog!
Looks delicious. My husband and I cook a similar dish with barley, asparagus spears, asparagus puree and a bit of lemon. My son (2 years old) loves it, and it’s so good for him.
It surprises me how you can juggle work, cooking and baby and photoshooting at the same time.You are amazing! I’m gonna try out your roasted vanilla pear today! Thank you for the recipe!!!!
Oh. My God. MONKEY EARS! And the expression like “Um, DAD???”
nothing in this recipe even remotely appeals to my taste buds, but it looks so delicious and warm and comfortable and homey i may have to try it.
You make an excellent point about how grain and legume side dishes at restaurants are a good indicator of the caliber of the chef’s culinary skills. This looks like a delicious recipe, rich, hearty and earthy. I’m looking forward to trying it!
Oh dear, that looks good. I have been craving barley for a while and was planning a soup of sorts. I think I just found something better, though.
I totally know what you mean about restaurant side dishes being maddening. I’ve been trying to recreate a braised endive I had at Bacchus in Brooklyn for like a friggin year!
I use my slow-cooker for beans more often than for anything else! If you need them really soft (for hummus, for example), do them overnight on low. Piece of cake. :)
P.S. Jacob is the cutest little monkey ever.
This may sound silly… but I never new barley could be cooked as a risotto. I love barley and this looks delicious!
Congrats on the AT recognition – you deserve it (I voted for you!). I love your experiments, your pictures, and the fun you seem to have with it all. Look forward to trying the barley risotto myself.
Beyond the fact that this sounds comforting and delicious – the colors and textures in this dish also look truly beautiful. One of the hardest parts of winter, for me anyway, is the monochrome white and grey outside. The simple colors of earth are a welcome change – bits of green and brown and gold.
And the best part of eating at home – oh – the potential for seconds ! :)
Thank you as always, Michaela
These are positively my favorite parts of a meal, too! I do, however, try to budget them between bites of whatever protein they’re under. Now if I can just track down some barley…
what a fantastic idea! I rarely order meat in restaurants, so I’ve always loved the sides, but never thought to try them at home!
Congratulations on the award at AT!
I’ve always been slightly terrified of actually cooking barley but I am going to try it soon because it looks nice and warm and seasonal (especially with the snow here in central Illinois!).
I just posted risotto today that I made for the first time!! I am obsessed with it now and for sure will make this one!
This looks wonderful. I’ve never cooked barley before. This might be a silly question, but are wheat berries similar? I’ve got some wheat berries that I’ve been wanting to try but have no idea what to do with them. — Congrats on the awards. I’ve been really enjoying your blog since I stumbled onto it a couple months ago. :)
Looks lovely and comforting :)
Our slow cooker broke — after 10 years. Do you have any suggestions for a new one? Do the digital/programmable ones seem worthwhile?
Where’s the caramel? And the molasses?
I almost, almost missed that adorable picture of Jacob! Can’t wait to make this – I love risotto.
I love that you’re using your slow cooker. It’s like getting a wedding gift all over again, isn’t it.
Wow, I have never made anything like this before. I will definitely need to try it out! Thanks for the good idea :)
But I must add, where is the picture of Jacob in this post?! Is he rolling over yet?
I love barley salads. They’re especially good with dried cranberries and scallions. Sweet and spicey.
congrats, deb! and maybe it’s because of the deliciousness that’s always sitting on top of it, but i LOVE your countertop — it almost looks blue in some pictures. any idea what style/make it is?
delraymom — It’s like the cheapest plastic countertop one can buy, I am certain. Formica? Do they even use that anymore? Somehow, formica sounds nicer than what it is. (I live in a rental, if you can’t tell.) The light is very blueish in the afternoon, when I cook the most. I find myself scrubbing the blue out of the photos a lot…
Leighann — You’re funny.
This looks really good.
I made the caramel pudding last night, and while it was very delicious I obviously did not cook my caramel long enough. I’m going to try again Saturday. I used lactose free milk, and it worked wonderfully.
I would never have thought to use barley like this -its always a side note in soup at my house. Love that monkey ear photo -he gets cuter every day.
I have found that if you soak the barley overnight (strain the soaking water), it gets a hint creamier.
This is my kind of food! – Thanks for sharing!
i could be cozy with this dish & by a glass of wine…
you know deb, your site is truly wonderful & you deserve all the accolades bestowed upon you…&…
you can see just how *tiny* sweet jacob is…are those alex’s hands?
thanks for your excellence…you strive for the best which makes us do the same…
i truly struggle with cookie & pie dough & have read your tutorials (pie crust 101, 102, 103)…anything new to add…i was going to attempt the vodka dough but then read 102…2010 is my year to turn out good doughs…i hope…
Why order meat when you can get a great side dish?
Congratulations on your well-deserved awards. It’s always such a fun moment to read your blog (and the comments!). My husband LOVES rice but only if it’s plain long-grain enriched… so whenever I try to make a risotto, I get the disappointed face. I have tried to trick him with making “quinotto” (quinoa-based) or more recently “speltotto”… and they were a success both with him and my kids. Your barlotto is next on my list!
PS: Your little monkey is adorable!
People, people people….how many times must this be stated….There are ALWAYS baby pics in Deb’s posts. In her third paragraph there is the word “ahem” in parentheses. That is your link to Alex trying to make poor Jacob into Curious George whilst Deb takes the photo. The giggles that caused on my part will remain my own secret, you rotten parents. :D
We just had a fairly icky snowfall which will be followed by sub-zero temps with 18-25 mph winds. I see this in my near future as a way to ward off the cold. Looks uber yummy and comforting. Thanks Deb.
Sounds heavenly and just the thing to make this month as I slowly but surely clean out my cupboards. Yum!
This looks wonderful! I am also impressed by people who make greens and beans taste like heaven (especially kale, I find kale tricky). I am new to this site but can already see why you have won so many awards – congrats! Thanks for the tip on cooking beans in a slow cooker, I never thought of doing that before and it will definitely help with the bags of dried beans languishing in my cupboard!
I love the combination of beans and escarole. I always use barley for my risotto and sometimes use farro. Try radicchio & pancetta and red wine or shrimp, peas and lemon zest. Go crazy.
Another chef I love is Sara Foster and she feels the same way about side dishes and states its how she decides what she wants to order off the menu. Since being introduced to her I have adapted the same thinking. I can’t wait to make this!
I am so excited to make this, it is as if you were reading my mind. I’ve been sitting at work counting the minutes until I can leave and I kept thinking “want risotto…want risotto” and then here it was. Now if only I could convince my boyfriend this is not a “scary” dish (barley is scary…apparently).
Also: congratulations on the awards – very well deserved. I’ve been (lurking) reading your blog for over a year and I’ve tried lots of recipes and I would like to say: Thank You. Your site is wonderful and has inspired me (and many others I’m sure) to try new recipes.
AAAh just another yummy looking comfort food recipe! That bitsy baby is so CUTE! Soon he’ll be glomming down all that good food of yours!
Okay, I’m gonna say it: I have never liked barley. BUT! You make me want to try this. It sounds so super-healthy and groovy, and all the other ingredients are to die for. Gonna switch up and muse about how it would be to do this in a pressure cooker, like my brand new programmable electric Cuisinart one, which I am digging the hell out of, and NO I do not think you should try to find one in a thrift store, quite the opposite when you’re dealing with something as fearsome in legend and lore as a pressure cooker. But having had a stovetop model and now the ‘lectric one, I love love love them for cooking beans. Quick soak for an hour, then 8 minutes on high pressure. BEAUTIFUL. Also risotto? Ah, five minutes, ladies.
Congrats on the well-deserved awards!!
score! I’ve been looking for a new method for cooking beans. But I must object to you calling beautiful greens “unloved.” They’re just underappreciated.
This looks wonderful. One of my all time favorite foods is Hoppin John- this looks similarly delicious.
PS: I’m so glad you won the Homies Home Cooking award. I love this blog, and have tried so many of your recipes. Generally, if I am looking for a good recipe, your blog is one of my first stops. Your recipes are high quality, made from scratch. I like your witty, relatable text.
this looks delicious. most of my barely consumption has been limited to tea but i’d like to give your recipe a shot.
i love your photos too, by the way.
I cook beans almost exclusively in the the slow cooker now. It’s the method that Rancho Gordo recommends, and no one knows beans like RG. And the pot liquor is the best part. Love that phrase: “pot liquor”
Congrats on the awards and I adore you even more for continuing to share wee Jacob with all of us hungry little readers!
I so agree with you! I go crazy over beans myself. I find more and more that is really what I am most interested in. I make beans a lot and am really preferring it!
originally the food pictures were too great – I can barely handle how beautiful and scrumptious everything looks. But like any good addict I keep coming back. But now, now! you have upped my dosing with the jacob pictures! It’s too much! I’m not sure how you handle this in real life.
I have not yet attempted risotto at home. Maybe it’s time.
This is a seriously healthy looking risotto. I need to start making this instead of the 10,000 calorie ones I usually make for myself. You know, standing around doing all that stirring when making risotto is a good time to ponder the big questions in life. I always do. :)
I totally agree with you on the side dish comment and eating out. I cook a lot at home (and I mean a lot) and even a simple thing like a veal chop in a restaurant can be overshadowed or upstaged by the wonderful, multi-layered-depth of flavor side dish. That is why I find myself returning to certain restaurants and also why I find myself being particular about where I do my eating out (because it just doesn’t happen enough). I want a plate of food that makes me sigh over every element.
This barley dish sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing it with us!
Wow. Just wow. I made this tonight after coming home and surveying the contents of my fridge and wondering what I was going to do with some leftover roast beef and some spinach. What I did was make this, omitting the beans, adding some dried mushrooms (and adding their reconstitution liquid to the broth), using the leftover beef, and substituting the spinach for the escarole. And it was just one of the best things I’ve made in quite a long while. Delicious.
The added bonus, of course, is the picture of Jacob, which made me laugh out loud and grin with delight. Monkeying around, indeed!
This looks amazing, of course. But the real shock is that I couldn’t find the Jacob pic at first and got upset. And then when I did… how is it possible he looks like a little boy already???
Looks delicious. And your boy has the most beautiful face! It’s been fun watching him grow!
I just bought some barley for soup making. I’ll definately have some left over, so I’ll have to give this a go. Right after I make my own broth that is. Think the butcher will sell me a ham bone?
I FINALLY just made risotto for the first time two nights ago. Mmm, was it good.
Yum! I have made a barley/quinoa/arborio risotto before, and I love the idea of adding beans and greesn to make it a full meal!
And that precious teeny tiny baby makes my 11-month-old niece look like a giant!
Delicious! I also love that it’s healthy. Always a plus this time of the year :)
Deb, this looks like the perfect warm-me-to-my-toes dish. Brava! Love pearl barley. I have been using it recently as a substitute for wild rice and quinoa salads (I live in Australia so instead of snow I’m getting sun this time of year – don’t hate me.) Just absorb-cook it with vegetable stock and when cool mix in fresh rocket, spring onion, roasted pistachios, mint and diced dried apricots with a generous dose of olive oil and lemon juice. I lived in Milan until not long ago where restaurant lunch menus often featured a cold barley salad dish with roasted vegetables and cheese.
Well I thought I was going to make a mushroom, leek strata for supper tomorrow night but after reading this I think it will be a barley risotto with mushrooms and leeks. Thanks for the inspiration and the lovely photos and congrats on the awards. And as always, thanks for sharing photos of your precious little monkey.
Did you and Alex make the smallest baby on the planet? His ears are SOOO little (squee)!!
Oh, drool. You never disappoint, do you? I think my last 3 out of 4 meals came from your site. I have this massive craving for kale right now, too.
Slow cooker AGAIN? You go girl. Way to get it out and keep it out. My husband decided to make a roast the night I wanted to make your brisket, so mine is still on hold. These beans might just end up in it first.
Congrats on the awards! Both well deserved!
Of course, Jacob is so adorable! His little ears are so wee!!!!!
That is the cutest baby I’ve ever seen on the Internet. And this recipe sounds heavenly.
I recently went out to dinner and had a barley risotto almost exactly like this one. I’d been searching for a recipe and, voila! You totally delivered!
I made this tonight, using white beans and skipping the escarole and thyme. It was AMAZING. I was so very, very proud myself. It took me more like 50 mins to get the barley al dente, but it was definitely worth it.
yum! i love risotto. i made my first one just last week:) and congrats on your awards!
Not a fan of risotto….even in Italy, so I’m giving this one a pass… but that son of yours!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hilarious. Thanks for another great post!
This looks fabulous. I adore barley but have been limited to making potfuls of barley soup because of my laziness. And what on earth is more fun than making your baby do funny things while you take photos of them?? Nothing! That’s what. He’s edible.
Yummy! I’ve been looking for a healthy version of risotto, and this is definitely my answer…
I can’t wait to make this! Should also mention that I almost always have hulless barley (pearled is wonderful but slightly less whole-grain) for breakfast — and how do I cook it? Well — after rinsing it well — in the …slow cooker — tada! Throw it in with a ratio of about 3.5:1 water to barley, and let cook on high 3-6 hours (depending on the amount, it might be done in 3, but it’s a grain that can stand up to a LOT of cooking). Then I keep it in the fridge, and take out some every am and heat up. It isn’t JUST for breakfast, obviously. Delighted to know I can turn the beans into a 1-step procedure now with the slow-cooker.
And. more slow cooker goodness? Yes, risotto in the slow cooker DOES work. I finally tried one from Michele Scicolone’s new Italian Slow Cooker book. VERY yummy and not so overly creamy/heavy. Many thanks for all the yummy recipes!
This dinner will work quite nicely for dinner in our frozen tundra, otherwise known as Annapolis.
Beans and greens in any combination = my favorite food. Mmmmmmmmmmmm! Can’t wait to try this recipe!
This risotto looks so healthy and delicious! I love risotto, and have only made it with pearled barley once before. Looks like it’s time for round two!
This looks delicious though I can’t have barley (celiac) but I bet arborio would work well.
Trying to brainstorm substitute grains for this. It’s funny, since going gluten-free, I did miss the standard breads/cakes, but I can now make those myself. (sorta kinda, I’m getting better) But barley. I didn’t think I’d miss barley, until all of a sudden I’m seeing it everywhere in the blog world. I wonder if using a short-grain brown rice, since it’s still so nice and chewy, would do the trick. Of course, I could make a regular risotto, which I do love, but where’s the adventure in that? Love your monkey boy by the way!
Congrats on your homies win! This looks delicious as always
I feel like you read my mind (or my blog!)…I JUST posted a risotto recipe and included a note about wanting to know if there was any truth to the idea of subbing pearl barley for rice…seems like such a great way to add another grain to my diet…now I am so excited to try this! Thanks so much!
I agree, the more I cook at home, the more I am not impressed when we eat out. This sounds like a perfect combination of healthy and satisfying. I’ve been learning towards vegetarian menus a lot since this holiday season ended, in an effort to get back to my healthy self!
I’m a fellow side-dish lover. I make a lot of risotto for weekend dinners (typical rice) and this would be a great variation that lets me make it more often with a little bit more nutritional value!
I completely agree with you about side dishes at restaurants. I recently got a lamb burger with a side of kale salad at a nice restaurant, and of course the burger was good, but the salad was much more interesting!
nice photos..as usual..
Love, love, love barley, and have been craving healthier dishes in the fiercest way….
I made yourdelicious roasted pears for Christmas Eve supper and they turned out wonderfully well. May well be a new family tradition. Not only did they taste scrumptiously vanilla-y and caramel-y, but they also made the house smell gorgeous. I used rose wine instead of water, but I doubt that it made any difference.
Thank you from a very cold England
I’ve been looking for a lead-free slow cooker forever. Did I miss the brand of the one you’re using?
I’m so with you on this one, Deb. Of all the grains, barley reigns king in my world. I look forward to trying this one. Lovely photos…thank you. Oh, I, too, would be interested in the slow cooker you are using.
My slow-cooker is Faberware. It is no longer made. This looks like a popular equivalent.
Now THAT has to be the best baby picture ever. Thanks for sharing.
As one who always conquers the side (veggie/pilaf/potato) before the protein, this sounds scrumptious to me! But if I want my carnivore husband to try it I will have to finagle some pulled pork or beef pot roast INTO it. Not NEXT to it. Will let you know how that goes.
What a cute little monkey! And congratulations on your recent awards. You deserve them all and then some.
It just snowed 3″ here in Michigan and this recipe looks soo good. (When I get off work) I will try it this weekend. I love your blog and the baby is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing. I am still getting raves and hints for the cheesecake swirl brownies!
Deb, I’m excited about your new years exploration. While I love the photos and descriptions of your deserts and delicacies- as a single gal living alone, I can’t have all that dessert lying around. I’m really looking forward to trying these grain/bean explorations. Thanks!!
too funny – we both made the “leave the kids to fend for themselves with mom and dad go get a bite to eat” joke in our blogs today. i swear, i posted my entry before i read this. ;)
(sorry, that’s “while mom and dad” not “with” – that’d defeat the whole purpose.)
I’m so excited to try this. I love risotto, and I’m always looking for new/different/tasty recipes that use barley and other whole grains. Thanks for this! :)
Heh, that’s funny, I’m often the same way. In fact, I went out to dinner last night and the steak was good, but the rice pilaf was amazing! The risotto sounds awesome, I wonder if I could convince my girlfriend to try it.
Yum! I’ve been wondering what else I could do with barley and this is it! Luckily, I just made a pot of beans so it looks like bean & barley risotto tonite! I’ll probably use kale instead of Endive since I have a lot of kale and I can’t seem to get enough.
Congratulations on your awards! Certainly well deserved and something to be proud of! Cheers to you!
Love your monkey.
Hi Deb, thanks , you are always surprising us with your incredible recipes. I have some quinoa ( so this can be considered as Quinotto!!), some red chili beans and arugula at home, which I think will work perfectly as well for this recipe. By the way, and since we are enjoying summer time here in South America , yesterday made your sable sour cherry pie!! It was heavenly!! Lovely pictures of your baby!!
I’m gearing up for a month-long test run at vegetarianism in March. This will be a great recipe for my little experiment. Thanks!
This looks so delicious! Barley has been calling me at the store every week. I’m going to make it soon. Thank you. Have you tried Anooshavoor? It’s a Turkish barley porridge. You can cook it in apple juice with cardamom and stir in some dried apricots – YUM!
Mmm, perfect for winter. I made a barley risotto with cauliflower not too long ago — it’s a nice change from the Arborio rice.
Love barley! We must have been thinking in parallel; I tried something like this over the holidays and even my picky-eater grandchildren ate it. Can’t wait to try yours. BTW, I chickened out whilst cooking up the caramel syrup for the pudding, so it was quite pale, but still delicious, especially with a topping of recently made spiced pecans. Happy grain/bean creations for 2010! Jacob will think them better than the ubiquitous boxed mac & cheese!
I confess, I read your posts more carefully than before, in search of the hidden pics (nice work!).
i’m excited about this recipe – i actually just cooked barley for the first time last week and was like “WHOA!” it was so good!. excellent timing, what.
This looks fabulous! I’ve loved your other barley recipes, and I love risotto, so I can’t wait to make this! I’m attending a vegan dinner party next weekend, and this might just make it to the top of my list!
Okay, I’ve said this before, but good god that kid is adorable. And not just in a “all babies are cute” way, I mean really, truly, makes my ovaries ache and my biological clock start thumping adorable.
On another note, I’m totally going to try a barley risotto, but knowing my husband I’ll also have to roast a chicken if we want to call it dinner.
This looks great! I bought some barley for a soup and didn’t know what to do with the rest of it, this recipe is perfect. Thanks
Hooray! Just impulse-purchased some barley the other day and needed something to do with it!
ALSO, and more importantly, I cannot get over Monkey Ears!! Jacob is the cutest thing I have ever seen :)
I feel the same way…and nothing says comfort like a good rice dish. Thank you!
OH…this looks great! Perfect for the COLD weather we’ve been having!
Ahem, Deb, that little monkey of yours has the most serious little face. If ever there were a straight man for your comedy team, he’s your guy! What a cutie.
This recipe appeals to me so much more than one using risotto. I just have never been a fan of risotto. On the other hand, my family thinks I overdo the barley since I tend to throw a handful into almost every soup or stew that I make. I’ll definately back off with the barley additions awhile so I can spring this one on them sometime this winter. Looks outstanding.
Yes! I have been looking to make a new risotto. I want one less creamy, such as above because (no it’s not my resolution) I’m counting down to my wedding and need to make the dress work.
This looks delicious! I recently made a lentil soup and can’t get my mind off beans. Beans and Barley sounds great!! I have never cooked with escarole, so I am interested in giving it a try.
Okay, gotta admit; so far I’m not in the barley-love camp. I tried a barley risotto a while ago, and it was like eating savory oatmeal, to me. But THIS is enough to make me give it another go.
Thanks, Deb; and congratulations on all your awards; you truly deserve them.
I so know what you mean! We ate at a top of the line restaurant on vacation last year. I had the lobster which was fabuous, however, it was the wildrice side dish that was simply “orgasmic”!
I’ve gotta tell you I now am just as excited as I am to see baby pictures as I am to see your new recipes!
Question: Do you think this would freeze well or not?
You’re absolutely right about the sides. I’ve never known how to make barley taste like much but Ill definitely try this soon since it looks like arctic conditions for the next few months!
This looks great. Speaking of languishing Rancho Gordo beans….your kidney bean curry gets an out of this world lift with Christmas Bean Limas from RG. I could eat it every day.
ONLY BECAUSE I THINK YOU WOULD WANT TO KNOW: I don’t think you need the hyphen in craftily grammared. (Craftily is an adverb, so we already know it’s modifying grammared.) My new favorite phrase, by the way.
A barley risotto is brilliant, and ha ha, leaving J. to fend for himself in front of the tube with a can of formula…heh…what? What’s wrong with that? The kid has to learn how to eat “solids”, soon, right? Right? :) LOL I totally hear you out!
I was planning on making a barley risotto tonight. Your recipe has given me further inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing. I really love your blog and especially your “dreary speckled countertops.”
Have you thought about an option to tag comments so they sort by Praise of Deb, Adoration of Baby, and Potential Helpful Feedback/Questions, for the convenience of those of us who are already believers that Deb is da bomb and her son is the most delicious of all dishes? (Perhaps you have touched on this; forgive me if I have missed it in the 100+ comments per post!) (-:
Perfect timing! Just checking in as the squash cooks for my squash-barley risotto! Thanks for the tip about the veggie broth — mine looks so dark already, I’m sure it’s super salty. I’ll be sure to add some water.
Hooray for barley risotto!
First time posting. Actually it was today that I finally realized HOW to post. You see on so many of your recipes I’ve been scrolling and scrolling and frankly gave up scrolling and couldn’t find the Comment section. I know, jealous of my internet prowess, aren’t you? So I’m a total foodie, but honestly I’ve been coming to your site more for Jacob pictures [I sent the link to his ‘lack of wrists’ to at least 10 people] than the food lately. But the food is stunning, and your humour oh so needed in this world we find ourselves in. Hello from Vancouver – the Olympics are coming. For those attending the games, we’re happy to have you!
I just linked through to your blog from Joy the Baker, and it looks wonderful. I love grainy-yummy foods, especially in the winter months, so this barley risotto really appeals. Definitely looking forward to reading more of you as the year moves on. Thanks!
Me and my girlfriend almost started fighting last time we tried to make our firat barley risotto. We both really wanted to try it but we just weren’t able to make it as wonderful as normal risotto. We’ll have to give it a new try with your recipe.
Oh my land. I just made a variation on this for dinner and it was completely delicious. I used spinach (as I’ve got loads) and red kidney beans (the whole can!) and smoked cheddar as my add-ins. It was all we could do not to eat the whole pan between the 2 of us… such a nice way to recover from the meat-induced coma that was Christmas and New Year’s. Thanks for this recipe, I know I’ll be making it again and again!
(PS: For what it’s worth, I do think used the hyphen properly in “craftily-grammared”. It’s because ‘craftily’ modifies ‘grammared’, which is yet another modifier [i.e., for ‘ramblings’]. Modifier + noun = no hyphen. Modifier + modifier + noun = hyphen needed between the 2 modifiers. At least that’s what I’ve been taught. There, have I put everyone to sleep yet?)
Now that is some hearty risotto!
Wow, you hid that picture of Jacob. I almost commented with a “Where’s the Jacob picture!?”
I read for the recipes but as my life gets busier and I, I’m ashamed to admit, cook less, I still read for the food, and the photos but also for a momentary “Awwwwwwww” whenever I see pics of your adorable little boy.
I thought I had the cutest kids in my family but your’s might give them a run for their money. :)
Those are the most perfect adorable little baby ears I have ever seen!
You deserve every award there is! Jacob deserves Best Resident Monkey. I recently made another of your risottos- this will be next. Happy New Year!
Did you know you are listed as a favorite link on the Saveur website! I get the magazine and yesterday went to the site to check it out and found your site and The Pioneer Woman’s site on their ‘sites we love’ list!
Hahahahaha! He’s looking at his dad like, “why are you doing this to me? Is this gonna be one of those photo’s you’re gonna embarrass me with later in life?” lol – thanks for the laugh today Deb!
I love your outlook on the real mark of a talented chef. It reminds me of how they judge the skill of sushi chefs in Japan; not by their sushi, but by their tamago (rolled egg omelette–the real thing is nothing like the egg sushi you get in the states).
Beautiful looking dish. Haven’t replaced rice with barley in a risotto before.
I made your brisket the other day – people around here are looking at me with new respect, like, OMG she CAN cook after all. I have such a struggle at the stove but everything you post has turned out so well. And your baby just looks the best little boy………………………………….
I’m just glad I started off the new year by heading on over to this site…Beautiful dish and thanks for your talent..
Deb, I love your site and am a devoted reader even though I have nver commented before. I feel compelled to share with you this post:
containg some mind-blowing concepts when it comes to the slow cooker (maybe I’m a touch dramatic :) )
I am going to try this recipe with kale, looks delicious.
I’m totally with you. My husband always laughs that I order the grain or vegetarian dishes over everything else…especially spinach, I have a weakness for spinach.
This looks delicious. I’ll be trying it soon!
I made this last night with white kidney beans and spinach. The mistake I made was using my tagine bottom instead of a regular sauce pan. It look 1 hour 10 minutes and 10 cups of liquid (veg stock and water mixed) to cook the barley. And even after that length of time, it was still not cooked thoroughly. After 80 minutes, I could not possibly stir anymore! So while the risotto was creamy that barley was still quite firm. I really enjoyed finishing the bottle of white wine I opened for this recipe. :-)
What a great take on risotto! I feel you on the restaurants. I guess I feel like normal dishes are over played and there can’t be much more to do with them…usually I could make them better at home but when I see the passion of the chef come through in some form of mishmash on a plate I find myself blown away.
My mother and I feel the same way about our restaurant dishes! Please keep up the great work, and I’m totally looking forward to more delicious grain and veggie based dishes in 2010.
OMG, I can’t believe you’re gluing ears to that perfectly nice baby’s head!
I am just like you! I am always much more interested in the sides and appetizers. Being someone who’s not much of a meat eater, I sometimes wish I could just order the sides and call it a day. This recipe looks totally versatile and delicious. Thanks for sharing!
Really very interesting. This is something I really must try. I’ve only just found your blog- and I’m so pleased about that. I’m looking forward to being a regular follower!
Made this tonight–delicious! I’m with you on the traditional risottos being rather stodgy, but this hit the spot.
I just made this tonight. I used collard greens rather than escarole, and just put them in the simmering stock. They were perfect when it was time to add them at the end. It was great. I will definitely be making this again and again and again… Thanks!
I made this tonight and it was delicious! I used homemade chicken stock and I think it made a difference. I’ll definitely make it again.
Being vegetarian it is always frustrating to see so many interesting things under the meat in restaurants – much better to eat at home – i have never tried a barley risotto but would like to make one like this
Oh. My. God. The cutest little baby monkey ears ever! I wish I could nibble on them!
The risotto looks great, too, but given my druthers I’d rather nom Jacob.
I made this last night for dinner along with the mushroom soup from three years ago (which needed no cream). I started by making a very rich, relatively high fat chicken stock using three whole chicken legs (they were on sale for $0.79/lb, so I did what I never do– boiled the fat/ meat to death and then tossed it rather than using mostly bones). I did not bother to put any butter or cheese into the risotto at the end. I just grated some cheese onto the top before serving. This was by far the creamiest risotto dish that I have ever made. I am not going to bother buying aborio rice again (although it may be the stock more than anything else). It also reheated very well for lunch today.
I used giant white beans and arugula because it was what I had on hand. I also baked some very thin slices of pancetta that I put on top just before serving which gave a nice contrast in texture. Such a lovely dinner on a cold night.
this is soo up my flexitarian alley. I am dying to make it. I totally feel you too on the sides thing. I had some nice duck this weekend but the real story was the perfectly-cooked white beans that accompanied it, and while my friend’s fish was looking at me, I was eyeballing the farro salad next to it.
This is brilliant! The parmesan and escarole are perfect together. While I was making it I was so sure how it would taste, but it turned out like adult macaroni and cheese…culinary nirvana!
I made this Saturday. Perfect – we were really hungry and had it with burgers au poivre.
Hey…what do you think of using hulled barely instead of pearled? Could I cook the barley a bit first before inserting it into the risotto recipe? Or would the recipe allow the longer cooking time of the hulled barely…I have a bunch of the hulled variety from a grain share!
I made this recipe today and it was absolutely fantastic! I added garlic with the onions and also some sauteed mushrooms. Thanks for the wonderful recipe!
I discovered this blog a few months back and am totally smitten. This is my first post though. This looks absolutely delicious and it has made me re-shuffle my menu plan for the week so I can fit it in. One question though – how important do you think it is that the stock is warm? Will it make a noticeable difference over just adding it at room temp? I’d love to avoid another pot to wash but not if it will compromise the recipe. Thanks!
Another Deb — Having your stock hot when making risotto is important because it will otherwise stop the cooking process every time you ladle it in… Stop, start, stop, start… It’s not good, and will make it harder to get the creaminess you want from the grain.
Made this last night-its amazing! We loved it & cant wait to make it again…tonight we are having the slow cooker brisket…cooking now, smells great!
I, too, made this last night and it was delicious! I had to use spinach instead of escarole as our organic market was out of escarole, and I used dark red kidney beans. It was so hearty, but not heavy. Can’t wait to make it again, swapping in new kinds of greens and beans. Thank you!!
Have been making risottos with barley for a couple years now as an alternative to rice’s high glycemic load. I’ve found the problem is that sauteing the barley in oil coats it so that the cooking takes forever – seems like twice the time that barley usually takes – so maybe the overnight soak is the answer. But it’s true: leftover barley risotto is much more appetizing than rice.
I know I would love this. But, I’ll never make it. I just want to know how you make risotto with a baby. I can bake with my 2 kids (2 1/2 and 3 months), but i can’t seem to cook on the stove.
Yum! Made this tonight and used Maidera wine since it’s all I had on hand.
I think I remember you saying you read The Minimalist in the Times – have you made his pasta risotto yet? We had it Sunday and might never boil pasta again!
This dish is creamy, cozy, comforting, and perfect on a crappy winter’s day and yet… it’s loaded with fiber and low fat? And delicious to boot? How have the stars aligned to accomplish this fate?
Thanks so much for this recipe. Until last night I was a barley virgin. But no more – now I am a barley convert. Also, LOVED the slow cooker tip. I even used some of the bean cooking water in place of one cup of the broth and it made things extra creamy. Super tasty. Thanks!
We made this tonight and it was amazing! We used rainbow chard and veggie broth. Yum.
Thank you for the response about keeping the broth warm. I did and it was absolutely delicious. Took about another cup of liquid for me, but perfect in the end. My market didn’t have escarole so I used swiss chard, and I used romano beans. Will definitely make again.
Hi! I just want to say that when you wrote these words: “It’s also, sadly, the place where the gap between what I pay others to cook and what I whip up at home is the greatest. I miss those sauces — those puddles of concentrated buttery rich brothy flavor! I want to splash in them! — I miss all of the in between spaces on my plate. I vow to conquer that this year. Bring on the puddles!” I was enthralled! and looking at your barley risotto with beans and greens recipe pictures, I knew that I had to try your recipe!
I made it last night, and you are right – it is delicious and very well could become “a staple” here at home as you said since my husband LOVES it!
Also, I couldn’t find the exact cheese, but I used another good, parmesan cheese and garbanzo beans… Good.
Made this for dinner last night, and it was wonderful. Simple, relatively quick, hearty, warm, creamy, and…GASP…fairly healthy! :) My husband loved it, too, so it will definitely become part of the regular rotation.
Thanks for another winner, Deb! Does it ever seem surreal to see so many people comment, “I made this for dinner last night!” about something you posted? I would think that would get really surreal.
I had some random leftover barley and didn’t know what to do with it and you saved the day! I made this with some carrots, black beans, and frozen spinach. Success! Thanks Deb!
Made this last night and it was delicious! I did change the recipe a bit, based on what I had in my fridge and cabinets. Instead of the escorole, I added some frozem spinach. And, also used fava beans. So yummy! Even re-heated some today for lunch and it was still fantastic
PS. Can’t wait to try the slow cooker recipe that you posted last week. Please post some more slow cook recipes :)
I gave this a go, hadn’t cooked barley before. I think I probably needed it to go a little longer (not entirely sure what the texture was meant to be like) but with a 14 month old I ran out of stirring time. I added white cannelini beans, baby spinach leaves and dill, and the taste combo was delicious. But I love dill! My little boy really enjoyed it even though it wasn’t mushy. Have just grown my first ever tomatoes so I’m now looking forward to trying your slow-roasted tomatoes (in Sydney, Aus). Thanks for a beautiful site.
Thank you for another awesome recipe!! I tried it tonight, using a red stock (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone),and while the onions were sauteeing, threw in a guajillo chile and some of the adobo sauce from a can of chipotles, later the red beans and escarole. I wasn’t sure how my flavor choices would taste with the parmesan, but it worked well! The different textures of this dish are fantastic!
i made this last night with rosemary, white beans, and kale–delicious! although mine took a bunch more stock. i wilted the kale in some olive oil and a little water before adding it because i figured it would take forever to cook in the mixture.
This looks fabulously guilt-free. I love the comfort of risotto but I don’t love the extra padding it adds to my backside so much. So Barley Risotto sounds like a win! Must give it a go. Love your site by the way!
I’m intrigued to see several recipes involving the slow cooker. I’ve been thinking of buying one but wanted to find enough yummy recipes first to make the price worthwhile. Have you thought of adding a “Recipes” section for slow cooker recipes?
Hi Elise — Thanks for the reminder. I forget to update it when I add new categories!
Mmm. This looks so healthy and belly-warming. I’ll have to give it a go during this upcoming “wet” spell we’re about to have here in CA!
Loved this! My husband made this the other night and it was so yummy. But it took forever to cook and he needed to add even more stock (at least another cup or two). The barley stayed hard for a long time. Any idea what he was doing wrong? Cooking at too low or too high a temp? He had the stock hot, so that wasn’t the problem. But it took more than an hour to cook, so when I make this again, I think I will just use rice (I know, boring!)
On the line: “I want to splash in them! ”
Your writing is so lovely! Your recipes and photography are divine, but it’s your marvellous, enthusiastic writing that keeps me coming back. If you ever write a book of just, you know, your thoughts about food, recipes or no recipes, I think it would be a great read!
On the heels of the demise of my FAVORITE food-magazine (Gourmet), I’ve been exploring other options… such as Food & Wine. Your recipe and comments about kale remind me of a recipe that I just tried from the January issue: Sunchoke and Kale Hash with Farro along with (or without, even) Skirt Steak with Paprika Butter. If you’re looking for legitimate uses of strange greens and grains, you might like this. The only thing I’d change would be to toss the sunchokes in a little oil and then roast them in the oven and add them to the hash after everything else is cooked, because I think it would complement the flavors and textures better that way. Anyway, I will *certainly* try this risotto, as it sounds quite delectable.
I just made this tonight….SOOOO good! I couldn’t find escarole, so I substituted kale, and used white beans. I accidentally bought quick cooking barley, but it still worked!
I made this last night and it turned out great! I simplified the recipe quite a bit – skipped the wine, replaced the broth with water, left out the onions (my husband doesn’t like cooked onions) and the escarole (didn’t have any), and added all the liquid at once rather than 1/2 cup at a time – but it was still delicious. I think adding a generous splash of cream toward the end of the cooking time made up for all of my omissions… My husband and I, as well as our friend who came for dinner, loved this risotto! Thank you for the recipe.
Delicious, but one comment. Buy some beano to accompany this. For obvious reasons.
I made this tonight with cannellini beans and baby spinach. Fantastic! I’ve become a big barley fan in the past couple of years but hadn’t used it in risotto before. Now I’m a convert!
Mmmm…. Black Eyed Peas and Swiss Chard make this a dish that will win over your carnivorous friends.
This may sound odd, but I get most excited when I see a post with a luscious looking healthy recipe. (Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about and drooling over all the gorgeous cakes, pies and cookies…but I don’t make them because I’m trying my best to eat clean.) I’ve made barley risotto in the past, but added all the liquid at once and cooked it low and covered like rice. It still turned out creamy since cheese and butter were stirred in at the end.
Interesting. I’ve never eaten/made barley before, so a barley risotto would’ve never even crossed my mind but for this recipe. I made this tonight (with cannellini beans and peas because I didn’t have any greens), and it was really lovely. Thanks for the inspiration!
I made this recipe for a weeknight dinner. We didn’t serve meat on top, just a bowl of hearty tomato soup on the side. My father, a former chef and strong advocate of meat in every meal, even conceded that it was wonderful. He also tends not to like the earthy dishes my mother and I go gaga for. (Although after dinner, he DID eat a handful of potato chips because he “didn’t get enough fat with dinner.” I think he just couldn’t let me win!
I definitely don’t recommend forgetting the table-side cheese, as what I added initially quickly disappeared. So delicious! Also, adding the wine negates a bit of the this-is-too-healthy-to-be-yummy-ness, making it a totally believable restaurant side. Definitely add it, I say!
delicious! but, cooking time was much longer than the recipe. 60+ mins, used about 10 cups of hot stock!
WOW this was good! I also added some Asiago cheese in place of some of the Parmesan just to try something different and it was excellent. I love grains but they need to be interesting – a pile of quinoa next to my chicken doesn’t float my boat. But this was a fantastic way to get your foodie on while also eating wisely.
While the risotto was really delicious, my arm is dead from an hour + over the stove. I found that I needed to add more liquid than suggested. I didn’t have enough of one broth so I did half vegetable and half chicken. I also used white northern beans instead of red nightfall and spinach instead of escarole. It turned out great but I don’t know if my arm can take another round for at least another 6 months. Delicioso!
This was fabulous! We always have tons of kale in our CSA and love to find new recipes to use it up. My 2 yr old gobbled it up and wanted, “more, more!” So it’s definitely a keeper! Three adults and one toddler ate every last bite- next time I’ll double it. Thanks, Deb!
So, I made this last night, but after 8 cups of stock and over an hour of stirring, I had to throw in the towel and we ate barley that was more al dente than we would like. The flavors were marvelous and I would definitely like to try making this again.
Do you think it could be that my pan was too hot and I was evaporating the stock as opposed to letting it absorb into the barley? Anyone have any ideas of what I may have done wrong. It was a new bag of barley that I purchased for this dish, so it was not old.
This is my first time commenting but I’ve made this for the 2nd time tonight and it’s AMAZING. Tonight I added the juice of one lime to the broth and it gave a really great, subtle extra flavor.
Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes!
This is totally delicious! We usually make risotto with brown rice that tends to get sticky and mushy. This was much better–I love the nubbly, firm texture of barley. We added mushrooms, which turned out great.
Maybe those who had a hard time getting the barley to soften up weren’t using pearled barley? Pearled barley has the hull removed, making it easier for the grain to absorb liquid.
Beautiful beans! Thank you so much for telling us all about Rancho Gordo – they really are the most fabulous beans on the planet!
This was my first time eating or cooking barley risotto- it was fantastic. It was pretty easy to prepare and cheap, too! I will definitely make barley one of my kitchen staples from here on out. Thanks!
Made this today with a few tweaks: used shallots instead of the onion, a little extra broth, some truffle salt and no cheese, but chunks of chicken apple sausage. It was scrumptious. thank you.
I just made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! We have been walloped with back to back blizzards here in DC and I needed something warm, delicious and healthy to snap me out of my snowpocalypse diet of beer, pizza and brownies (your cheesecake brownies to be exact). I had to forcibly put the leftovers in the refrigerator and now I will ignore them by squealing over pictures of your adorable Jacob.
Made this for dinner tonight and I can’t rave enough. I used Great Northern beans (cooked for 3.5 hrs. in the crock pot on high, thanks to Deb’s brainiac bean-cooking method) and a few hefty handfuls of spinach. I also used a Tbs. of fresh thyme. SO DELICIOUS and such a perfect recipe. It was JUST the right amount of sauce, JUST the right amount of wine-y flavor, JUST the right amount of thyme-y-ness, chewiness, etc. Clean flavors. So worthy of my (nominal) effort. LOVED THIS ONE!
Oh my gosh, this is delicious. I made it with plain old cannellini beans, without the wine, and with baby spinach in place of the escarole, and it was divine. I love risotto but aren’t the world’s greatest fan of rice, so this is the perfect substitute and I think it’s going to become a regular dinner.
Hi! I also had some trouble getting the stock to soak up. I’m not exactly an expert risotto cooker, so maybe you could help with some questions… I’m not sure how high the heat should be, should the sauce bubble? or steam? Does it really need to be stirred constantly?
This is my first post but I found your blog a few months ago. Nice work!
I finally made this last night. It was delicious, but I had to cook it for more like an hour and 20 minutes just to get the barley al dente – at that point starvation hit and we ate it even though it was still a bit chewier than I wanted. I definitely used pearl barley, and I was using Kitchen Basics low-sodium vegetable broth. Any ideas? Clearly a lot of us had this problem…
But thanks for another great recipe! Love your blog!
Made this for dinner, using a mix of chicken and veggie broth, kale, and probably more black beans than called for. But it’s a winner — I was skeptical as I cooked, but the butter and cheese push it into delicious territory. And it’s got me eating kale!
As a bonus, I avoided kale waste and the accompanying guilt by making kale chips.
Absolutely fabulous! I omitted the thyme, halfed the wine (more in my glass ;) and threw in some other spices, picky hubby even liked and I woke up thinking about it…risotto for breakfast?
I just finished cooking this. I doubled the recipe so that I would not have a half a bag of barley sitting in the pantry. It took far more liquid (even taking into account I doubled the recipe). I wonder if I cooked it on too high a heat?
I’ve been holding on to this recipe waiting for the right time to make it – and an unseasonably cold Washington DC night last night was the perfect timing. I used white beans b/c they were sitting in my cupboard and kale because my city grocery store has limited greens options and it might be my absolute favorite SK recipe I’ve tried to date – thanks!!
I just wanted to thank you for posting this great recipe!
I was in a bind, thinking I had tons of Arborio Rice, when I actually only had like 2 tablespoons (who knows why). I remembered hearing about various Barley Risotto recipes so I Google searched, found a few, but this one looked the most delicious.
I made it tonight, exactly how it was written EXCEPT I used Swiss Chard instead of Escarole and it was AH-MAAAAAA-ZING! So delicious. I love the texture of barley risotto especially in comparison to the softness of everything else. I used white beans and it was muy perfecto. Thanks Smitten Kitchen, you saved me!
wow was this delicious! probably the best thing I’ve eaten in weeks! I used beef broth, didn’t have wine, accidentally poured in at least 3x the thyme; used Yellow Indian Woman beans from Rancho Gordo (that I cooked with bacon); only had some arugula on hand so used that. My first experience with any sort of risotto and I am in heaven. Thanks for posting this!
I love this recipe. It’s hearty but light in flavor and goes with chicken, fish, pork… practically anything! I make it every so often – last night with tilapia marinated in a homemade orange/cilantro marinade. I’ve never made it with escarole as the recipe calls for because I can never find it at the store, so I go with Napa cabbage, which gives it a slightly sweet flavor. The cabbage gives the risotto a little crunch. I find that the dish works better with smaller beans to keep the texture consistent with the barley.
One warning thought – barley can make you gassy! (Don’t go dancing after you make this dish.)
We received a pound of escarole in last week’s CSA and were drawing a blank on what to do! We had all of the other ingredients in our pantry and whipped this up for a hearty Sunday night dinner. Thank you for this inspiring recipe!
Just made this last weekend, and I have to say, this recipe is amazing! The best part was being able to reheat the barley the next day for leftovers. I will no longer make risotto with arborio again. Thanks!
It’s 100 degrees today where I am so it’s a little insane for me to be making this dish… never the less… I’m doing a triathlon tomorrow with a friend and we’re eating at my house tonight and this seemed like a great combination of food for a pre-race meal.
My friend is a vegetarian and so I used a combination of vegetable broth and mushroom broth. I doubled the beans by using a can of red kidney and a can of pinto, I doubled the escarole, and added ricotta salata for an extra punch of protein.
Delicious, rib sticking, and healthy. I’ll tell you if it helps with my race time!
I made this for dinner Monday night and it was so delicious! Lately, we’ve been eating a lot of vegetarian meals, and there was so much flavor with this meal you almost forget that there is no meat involved. Plus, it was a very simple meal. Once everything was in the pot, I just added the broth when it was needed and I was left with enough time to make my weekly batch of granola! Perfect time saver but no skimping on a good hearty meal!!! Your recipes never fail me and for that I owe you a THANK YOU!
i made this once and loved it so much i immediately made it again! i’m just wondering why the butter at the end? i forgot this step the first time (so eager to eat it!) and when comparing the first batch to the second, it didn’t seem to be missing anything. so, tell me, butter?
If you don’t taste an improvement, skip it. Risotto is often finished with butter for an extra rich flavor.
Hi Deb, I’m just making sure b/c I can often mess up barley recipes, but is there any need to soak the barley before cooking it? Thanks! Your blog is inspiring!!
rexichic — I don’t soak it.
I have a question about pearled barley in this recipe. The picture looks like “regular”, not pearled, barley. I much prefer this and we have a wonderful local source so I am wondering whether you think this will work with either kind. I love barley, greens and beans very much, so I am excited to try this.
Go Deb, go! My fridge had leeks and kale in it, so in the pot they went with the northern beans. The wine! Oh, the wine! It sang with the pecorino and freshly grated nutmeg all the way to my belly.
Just made it with a can of black beans, regular barley (couldn’t find pearled and would NOT go to Wegman’s), not very expensive white wine, baby spinach that needed to be used up. Oh my gosh it is delicious. Now I want to try white beans, turnip greens, mushroom stock…Thank you so much~especially for the suggestions on substitutions which make me feel less tentative and more like a Real Cook. xo
Saw you in AM New York this morning! This is a great recipe, hope it inspires more people to make it!
Love, love, love your blog. Stumbled across it a couple of years ago when I was looking for a matzo ball soup recipe and I’ve been hooked ever since. Found this recipe this weekend and we made it tonight even though we only had kale, vegetable broth and canned kidney beans. It was delicious, nonetheless! Super easy, super yummy and gives me yet another reason to admire you and all you do.
Deb – just made this for a dinner party. Great dish! I changed it up a bit by using spinach instead of escarole, omitting beans (because I burned them on the stove in a cold-induced blur), and adding truffle salt (which sits in my fridge because of your cauliflower/caramelized onion tart). Delish!
This is NOT Gluten Free – Gluten Free means no wheat, BARLEY, and rye!
Nowhere in this post does it say it is gluten-free.
Made this tonight – ABSOULTELY delicious! It cooked exactly for 35 minutes, and I used homemade chicken stock. We loved it! I used small white beans, and thought that they went perfectly with the barley…
this is great! i have some barley that i whipped up today (with homemade stock, garlic, drizzle of oil, pepper and a bit of crushed garlic)…will definitely add some beans and greens to it tomorrow…
a great tip that i wanted to give is to sprinkle some mint in there! my (turkish) mother-in-law uses mint in many dishes and it hasn’t failed me yet! yum!
Used this barley to celebrate Phoenix’s fist day of Fall (highs in the 70s) before we go back to the 90s next week. I added 2 cups sliced mushrooms and a diced rutabaga, and used kale for the greens. Delicious dinner! And my husband, who is on a new heath kick, liked it AND approved of it’s heath values. Thanks, Deb!
Thank you so much for this great and inspirational recipe! I used Red Chori (Azuki beans) and spinach for the greens. I had some homemade chicken stock and chanterelle stock in the freezer which came to good use. This dish was just so delicious! A glass of white wine on the side and I had a fabulous Friday nigh meal:) I will definitely be making this again and as you said it can be varied in so many ways. Who said healthy food can’t be yummy?
I’ve made this a few times now and love it! Until tonight, however, I fell into the “Really? It only takes you 35 minutes for the barley to cook?!?” camp–I routinely stirred for 75 minutes. But I bought a different brand of barley this time (from an Asian grocery, although I’m not sure that makes any difference). This one said “baby pearl barley” as opposed to my “pearled barley” of before. Regardless, what a difference! If anyone else has problems with long cooking times, check out a different brand of barley.
oh my. gasp. i’ve been trying to make tasty barely for years. other than throwing some into soup nothing good has come of it yet. loved this dish. my husband loved this dish. and he doesn’t even like barely. discovered that it makes even better risotto than arborio rice – doesn’t stick as badly to the bottom of the pot. (used sprouted lentils and spinach) you are truly amazing. i know i have joined a huge group of fans – you totally deserve it. this is the third recipe of yours i have tried in a fortnight, all great successes. number four coming up tonight. thank you for bringing such joy and pleasure into our kitchen
One of the reasons I love your blog is that you seem to have just the right recipe for the random things I have in the fridge. Like yesterday– a trip to the farmers market left me with farro, beans, spinach and mushrooms. What could I make with these? I’ll see if smittenkitchen has any ideas. And here is it– the perfect, delicious recipe for my ingredients. Everything I’ve ever cooked from your recipes has been excellent. You make me look good. Thank you!
Made this last night – subbed mixed beans and chard because that’s what I had, but this was a HUGE hit – my husband *loved* it and my 1.5 year old did, too – I’m having the leftovers for lunch today and I can’t wait! Def putting this one into weeknight rotation. This recipe made me look goooooood! Thank you, Smitten Kitchen :)
This looks perfect for tonight! Thanks for the recipe :)
I made this dish over the past weekend with black-eyed peas and mustard greens, with a small drizzle of truffle oil, and it was phenomenal! Thanks for the fabulous recipe.
Hi deb – I love, love your site and love, love your new cook book! I’ve cooked several.of your recipes now, including this one. I love the barley instead of rice, but the texture of the canned white beans that I used in the recipes made it not quite as amazing as I hoped. It was kinds of glugy and the beans tasted overlooked, despite following the recipe. Considering how the rest of the world seems to love this recipe so much, I was disappointed. I did not have white wine on hand, and seeing it was optional, did not go and buy some, and I’m wondering if this made all the difference, too. my husband and I won’t do it exactly the same again. I will do the barley technique, but will tinker and get back to you. Any suggestions? Warmly, Angie
Angie — Canned white beans are definitely softer than freshly soaked-and-simmered. So, if you definitely prefer a firmer bean, you should make a pot of them. (You’ll be glad to have them. I love them with everything from roasted tomatoes to a vinaigrette dressing, cold.) I do find some variance in brands, too (Goya tends to be less mushy, at least in several varieties) so I’d avoid whichever brand sold you the mushier beans.
This is one of my all time favorite recipes. I have made it 3-4 times and figured I would come on and comment. My husband, who is not big on greens or beans, LOVES this and will eat bowlfuls!
Somehow this was the perfect recipe for the end of an already long day. I didn’t even have cheese in the house and it was still amazing.
Delicious!! Just made tonight with a few tweaks because I had missing ingredients! Last minute idea…
I do have a question – I had the same issue as one of the poster’s above – the barley took more than an hour to cook. Is there a particular kind I should be buying?
Thanks!! I LOVE your blog and am looking forward to getting your cookbook!!!
Do you rinse the barley before cooking it? By the way, do you rinse your rice before cooking it? Do you normally rinse but skip rinsing when making risotto?
Sometimes I rinse, but I don’t always.
As usual, one of your creations have filled my kitchen and tummy with deliciousness. Filled with protein and fiber keeps it healthy :-) I love this dish for what you made of it and for the dozen dishes I was able to make from it using yours as an inspiration. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing :-)
Made this for dinner last night for the second time – so delicious with escarole from my garden and romano beans. Served with your raspberry buttermilk cake for dessert.
Just made for the first time and like always your recipe did not disappoint!
For some reason I kept reading barley as farro, so I ended up making this with semi pearled farro. It took about 40-45 minutes, but still turned out delicious! Perfect recipe for the below freezing temps here in Pittsburgh. I also topped it with a poached egg, because why not?
My italian grandmother used to make escarole with chicken stock and mozzarella so in her honor, I added dime-size fresh mozzarella balls and stirred until just beginning to melt at the very end. Magnificent just like Nonny used to make! I did one batch with butter and one without and I think it needs the butter. That’s just me. I also did a vegan version without any butter or cheese at all (for my sons) and it was edible and good and but nothing call home about. If you are vegan, it’s worth a batch or two for sure. Thank you Deb!
I made this tonight with spinach and zucchini in addition to the beans. It was delicious, but the barley wasn’t as soft as I’d like. What should I do differently next time?
I love barley, thanks for the infos. I love making the Orzotto, it is delicious :)
Scaled up x1.5, opted for mix of kale/chard, and cannelini beans. Turned out great. Used a dilute broth of Better than Boullion no beef broth (what I had on hand).
I found THREE bags of barley in my freezer so I decided to try this recipe. Wonderful! I used some our Organic garden baby kale (read: had to wash off the bugs) and some canned red kidney beans. The barley did take 15 minutes longer but I wasn’t really surprised.
I made this with pancetta, Parmesan broth, caballero beans from Rancho Gordo, and kale and it was fantastic. Its rich and satisfying but it’s also super high fiber so it feels weirdly good to eat it? Super good!
Gonna make this tonight but I have a question: don’t I need to soak the barley for 12h hours before cooking it? Never cooked barley before….
So, so, so good!! I used chard and kidney beans. Also used nutritional yeast instead of cheese and tossed in a bit of herbs de Provence. Will definitely make this again.
Scaled up 1.5. Sauteed onion with a forlorn red pepper. Added pinto beans. Chopped fresh dill. Delicious. Thanks for reminding me about this “risotto” technique.
I’m sorry Deb I do NOT want you to cook for me! What I want is to hang out in the kitchen with you, gab, and cook. I would love to go peek in a chef’s kitchen and watch and then invariably I’d be wash and drying dishes. Be the gofer for whatever he or she needs and be talking and asking questions. I do like to taste but I also the the process of making it. Can’t wait to make this barley risotto.
A pressure cooker is ideal for cooking beans in a hurry. There’s no need to soak them first; just rinse the beans thoroughly and cook them at high pressure for about a third of the usual cooking time.
Do ensure you use enough water: enough for the cooking time as well as the amount that the beans will absorb directly – I use approximately three times as much water as beans, by volume.
Don’t salt the beans until they’re cooked; salt toughens the skins and slows down the rate of water absorption.
Made this last night. Was terrific. The only down-side is the amount of time standing in front of the stove stirring the stock into the barley, onion mixture. I guess this could be called teaching me patience… Anyway, the dish turned out great. I cut back a bit on the cheese but otherwise did the recipe as written. Another winner by Deb.
Anything I can substitute for escarole?
I’ve been making this every winter since you published it. It’s one of my family’s favorites. I use savoy cabbage or other greens when I can’t get escarole.
I made this earlier this week and was personally underwhelmed. I used arugula for the greens, which may be why this wasn’t as flavorful as some of the other posters have commented; I could see a chard or kale green being more flavorful. I used white cannellini beans and beef broth. It was my first time cooking with barley. It’s a supply given to me by my sister a few months from her local Italian market; maybe another brand would be more flavorful.
Perhaps because I was only cooking for myself and only had a 1/4 cup of barley in my dutch oven, but I definitely used *a lot* more liquid to cook the risotto in the 35 minutes. I am unsure if it’s simply because there was more “surface area” for the broth to evaporate, not enough of the grains were rubbing against each other for the starch to be released, or that the pan was too hot. I’ve made risotto with brown rice on occasion and found that I like its “nuttiness” and think this recipe might taste better with it instead of the barley.
I still have some barley left, so I might give this another found but it’s not a recipe that I’ll be rushing to recreate.
This is rich and satisfying and wonderful. I took it to a potluck and it was a huge hit! Thanks for sharing your recipe.
This is one of the best things I have made in a long time! I made a few small changes – some carrot with the onion because it was languishing in the crisper, added two large cloves of garlic (maybe not the best idea since this was for work lunches), and used collard greens instead of escarole. I only had 3/4 cup of barley, and I used a combination of beef & chicken stock, and I just heated up what I had and added some water when it got low. I used a 14 oz. can of beans, because who is going to measure and keep the leftovers?
It was great re-heated at work for lunch today. I made it very soupy, thinking the barley would keep absorbing, but I had to eat it with a spoon – totally ok with this because the broth picks up the starch and it a wonderful texture.
Made this with fresh shelling beans from the farmers’ market — boiled while the risotto was cooking and then added at the end. I mixed the chicken stock and the bean water for the last cup of liquid so I didn’t lose any bit of my hard-earned beans. I couldn’t find escarole or similar today so I used spinach, but next time I’d like a green with a little more heft to it.
I swapped beans and escarole for zucchini and spinach (that’s all I had in my fridge!) and it came out delicious!! Loved the texture of the barley.
Made exactly as written. Used a can of black beans from the back of my pantry. I would not change a thing; this is going into weekly dinner rotation forever and ever amen. Thank you Deb!
Would I be able to substitute brown rice for the barley? If so, what adjustments would you recommend?
1:1 will probably work, depending on the kind of rice.
I cooked up half a large cabbage with an onion in butter, like I would for making haluska, until it was browned. I added 1/4 cup of sour cream then added it to the finished barley, along with Rancho Gordo Ayocote Blanco beans. I used a mix of bean broth and chicken stock to make the risotto. It created a big unappealing pot of beige that tasted SO GOOD and had the most wonderful texture. So, note to self: make sure to add a carrot or parsley if you make this for company, otherwise make this exactly this way forever.
SO adaptable, and a great “pantry” recipe, which it was for us last night. In addition to the changes below, I didn’t even time anything. Just cooked “till done.”
1 med onion + the 1/2 red onion in the fridge
leftover 1/2 quart of chicken stock, plus water
frozen *red* wine (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 bag frozen spinach
1 can cannelini beans
forgot ALL the seasonings.
And it was still delicious. Barley–a lovely change from brown rice (which I love)–makes all the difference here. If I did the recipe with rice, I think I’d have needed “more” to make it as yummy. This is such a great “uh-oh, we need to shop!” recipe because it doesn’t feel at all like you’re eating from the bottom of the barrel. A keeper.
Has anyone made this with farro? It is what I have on hand and they seem similar in size, texture, etc.
I just made this last night with farro perlato, which took less broth than barley and about 30 minutes of cook time. It was fantastic!
Great! I’ll do it!
This was so good! Added a diced carrot to the onion (pretty colour and got rid of a sad vegetable from my fridge), put in the whole 19 oz can of black beans instead of just 1 cup, and used baby spinach for the greens. Leftovers were fantastic too! Thanks Deb!
Made this today, and my parents and I loved it! We used Romano cheese instead of Parm-Regg, and I’d suggest sticking to the Parm-Regg. The Romano was slightly overpowering.
I’m eating a plate of this right now. I keep asking myself, “Why is this so good?” You’d never know it by looking at the ingredient list but by all rights it’s spectacular.
Can this be successfully doubled? I’m concerned that the longer cooking time that would be needed to simmer off the greater amount of liquid will overcook the barley.