Creamy Spinach Barley Risotto and a tour of the garden…

One of the things that I did last week-end, besides eating ice cream and brownies, was spend some well needed quiet time alone with my flowers. This means no weeding, no digging, no dead flower removal or anything that’s closely related to working.

This was real quality time shared between me, the flowers and a geat macro lens that was lent to me by one of my co-workers. Now, that’s super nice of him indeed!  The only problem is, he’s got me completely hooked and I HAVE to get me one of those.

Hey, how’s about I take you for a little tour? I’ll be nice and spare you: I won’t show you ALL the pictures that I took that day, but if you don’t mind, I sure would love to share one or two… dozens!

We have to be quiet, though… we wouldn’t want to disturb the bugs, especially since there seems to be a lot of, ahem… activity going on! ;)

Ready? Let’s go!

From a distance

A bit closer…

See what I mean?

Closer still…

Up close and personal!

That one’s had enough of me! She just took off! (too bad the picture is a tad out of focus…)

Too close to comfort… wow, I love this thing!

I must’ve taken close to 200 pictures that day. It did me a world of good… and it was such a gorgeous day, too!

But hey, that’s not why you came here, now, is it? I bet you’d much rather I invited you to sit at my table instead of taking you on a tour of my garden. ;)

Well, in that case, what would you say to a beautiful bowl of Creamy and Cheesy Spinach Barley Risotto?

If you’re anything like me, you will say YES PLEASE, and ask that I give you both a fork and a spoon.

Why? Quite simply because I can never seem to choose between the two. Sometimes, I like to eat my risotto with a spoon, others, I prefer a fork. Same goes for macaroni.

Please, someone tell me they’re the exact same and that I’m not the only weirdo on this planet! ;)

If you’ve never tried barley risotto before, I strongly suggest that you try it at once! It is absolutely insane. I personally much prefer it to the original arborio rice version. It’s just as creamy, but I find it has so much more substance!

Plus, it’s much better for you, from a nutritional standpoint.

While pearl barley isn’t considered a whole grain because its hull has been removed and it’s been further processed to polish the grains, it still is a lot better for you than white rice is. Also, if you can, try and get your hands on pot or scotch barley, as opposed to pearl, you will get a grain that is a lot more nutrient dense. Plus, I find that it results in a better, creamier risotto. Bonus!

The only thing is, it’s a little harder to come across.

Harder, but not impossible…

INGREDIENTS
(serves 2-3)

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup barley
  • ¼ cup wild rice
  • 1 tsp salted herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 – 6 cups hot water
  • 200g soft tofu, diced
  • 225g fresh spinach
  • 40g sharp cheddar cheese
  • 40g low fat cream cheese

Instructions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat a little bit of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add barley, wild rice, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Continue cooking to develop fragrance for about 5 minutes,  stirring frequently.
  3. Meanwhile, bring at least 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan or kettle. When water starts to boil, add about 1 cup to barley and stir in salted herbs.
  4. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until almost all the water is absorbed. For the next 45 minutes to an hour, you will have to repeat this process many times, adding about a half a cup of water at a time.
  5. After each addition of water, simmer / stir until water is almost completely absorbed then add more water, until barley has reached the desired level of doneness / creaminess.
  6. When your risotto is almost where you want it, start to wilt your spinach in a separate skillet. Simply drop your spinach in the skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing them around until completely wilted. Remove excess liquid, transfer to cutting board and chop coarsely.
  7. Add both cheeses to the risotto and stir until melted. Toss in spinach (save a little bit for garnish, if you want) and tofu cubes. Give everything a  final stir and transfer to serving plate.
  8. Garnish with saved spinach if desired.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great photos! I love taking pictures in the garden and can easily take hundreds at a time too! Thanks for sharing! Risotto looks both lovely AND delicious! My husband is not a barley fan but even he might like this one!

    • says

      Poor barley! It has such a bad reputation… most people don’t like it! I guess it’s because people tend to associate it with vegetable / beef soup. Taken out of the soup and thrown in the risotto, with a little bit of cheese, it’s just out of this world. Have him taste it again, for the first time, and let me know how he liked it! ;)

      Glad you enjoy the pictures of my garden ! Sharing them sure is a pleasure! :D

  2. Nicole says

    Oh wow, your garden! I wanted to ask to see it but it looks like I didn’t have to. I am so inspired by how many different types of flowers you seem to be growing, and what seems to be pathways through it all. And the risotto too, delicious!

    • says

      Glad you liked, Nicole! And glad you seem to find that I have a wide variety of flowers. I feel I’m always showing you guys the same flowers, over and over again. I have so many more, but for some reason, I tend to always capture the same ones. Next time, I’ll take extra care to photograph the neglected guys… ;)

  3. says

    Absolutely STUNNING photos – both of the garden AND the risotto! I want a macro lens!!!! Your barley risotto looks SO delicious! I have a weakness for cheese and grains :) Hmmm but what to do about substituting barley since it’s not GF and if I want a little more nutrition than arborio…the wheels are spinning…

    • says

      Thanks Nora! Macro lenses are awesome, let me tell you! So much fun to play with. I really wish I owned that one!

      Now, I hear wheat berries also make a wicked risotto, but that wouldn’t be of any help to you, now, would it? I’ll try and think of something! It’s surprising how very little cheese goes a loooooong way in that dish. I’d almost be tempted to say there was too much of it… but really, is there such a thing as too much cheese? ;)

      • says

        Hard cheeses like parmesan and sharp cheddar can definitely go a long way with flavor :) but I don’t think too much cheese is possible – SO good!

        I am sure wheat berries would be delish too but yep, those won’t work either – maybe buckwheat, quinoa or millet would work or even a combo since they cook faster than the wild rice…I need to experiment!

    • says

      Thanks Christine! Salted herbs is something that we are lucky enough to have readily available here and that we generally find at the local supermarket. They are super convenient to have in the fridge at all times! Ricardo has a great recipe here, if you want to make your own. Trust me, if it ever happens that I can’t get them at the store anymore, I will be making my own, for sure!

  4. Donna says

    Oh my oh my!!!!…..Master Photographer…Master Chef….Master Gardener…..and I am positive you master many, many other things….You have exquisite taste in combining colour and the natural textures with graminées/grasses…I tried to assemble a similar mix of plantings in our house in France…Thank you for capturing the beauty of it all on film…and KEEP IT COMING….It’s like having our souls and tummies nourished simultaneously!! Your creamy dreamy risotto is on my must-make list before September ends…Thank you for your endless creativity and generously sharing it all with us….

    • says

      Wow! I don’t know what to say! I am flushed… What an avalanche of kind words. Thank you so very very much I guess… You are way too kind, Donna! Master is such a strong word. I try my very best and give my all to everything I do. Most of all, I love to share my passions with people who appreciate it. Glad you are one of them! :D

  5. Angela says

    you are not alone! I eat many things with a spoon, including tortellini and rice. this recipe sounds wonderful, and I will try it asap–my family is allergic to rice, so I will skip the wild rice and adjust as necessary,. (I know wild rice isn’t really rice, but we avoid it nonetheless). thanks!

    • says

      Some things are just better with a spoon. Period. That’s just the way it goes! Glad you agree with me :) Hey, I don’t think that leaving the wild rice out will really change the end result that much. I’d be very sad if I had to do that myself, though. Lucky for me, I don’t have any allergies. That would really make me miserable. At least, the foods that I voided from my diet, I did by choice, not by obligation. ;)

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