Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.
- Lawrence Downes
I love risotto, and even though it takes a lot of stirring and attention, it's fun to make and really not so hard. It's also infinitely adaptable. I haven't tried this recipe (I stole it; are you surprised?), which seems like a particularly West Coast-y version, with the Meyer lemons. I might try it soon, though, because I have a ton of pine nuts left to me by a friend who went abroad for the year. Regarding the lemon zest: try to buy organic lemons, to avoid pesticides in the rind. If you can't find Meyer lemons, I'm sure the regular kind will work fine. Squeeze the juice and freeze it.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups lightly pearled barley, or Arborio or Carnarolli rice
1 cup good quality dry white wine
6 cups light vegetable stock (or water)
Grated zest of 4 Meyer lemons (more to taste if you like)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crème fraiche (or sour cream)
3 big handfuls of greens (chard, spinach, arugula, etc.), chopped
Handful of toasted pine nuts, for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onions, shallots, garlic, and salt and saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.
Add the barley to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the white wine and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.
In increments, add about 6 cups of water or stock, 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions; this should take around 40 minutes altogether. Stir regularly so the grains on the bottom of the pan don't scorch. You will know when the barley is cooked because it won't offer up much resistance when chewing (it will, however, be chewier than Arborio rice).
When the barley is tender remove the pot from heat. Stir in the lemon zest, Parmesan, and crème fraiche. Taste and adjust - add more salt if needed, more lemon zest. Then stir in the greens. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and a dusting of extra Parmesan before serving.
Easily serves 4 to 6.