The nutty taste and texture of barley and the earthiness of beets play really well in this risotto... Barley Risotto with Golden Beets, Soft Egg, and Sage Browned Butter is a flavorful vegetarian #meatlessmonday dish perfect for the season!
Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.
~~ Samuel Butler
Fall has arrived in Las Cruces! I wouldn't say we have a "chill" in the air, but our days are glorious in the upper seventies and low eighties, and our nights are chilly. Most locals would say there is no better place to be than in New Mexico in October... The change in seasons is always reflected at the dinner table, as I enthusiastically embrace seasonal ingredients.
What foods represent fall to you? I think of root vegetables and pungent herbs like sage. I also shift gears from light to hearty fare. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I prefer whole complex grains - barley, farro, brown rice, quinoa, etc. Lately I seem particularly drawn to barley. I love the earthy flavor and chewy texture it lends to a dish. Traditionally, risotto is made with arborio rice - an Italian short-grained white rice. The rounded grains are firm and chewy, but because it's refined, it lacks nutrional value. Barley makes an excellent substitute in a risotto, requiring just a little more time to cook.
The Natural Grocers Market just a half mile from my house has beautiful golden beets right now, and my herb garden provided the fresh sage. Sage is so much more than its dried form used in Thanksgiving dinner stuffing. The herb is earthy, aromatic, and pairs beautifully with root vegetables and blue cheeses. I have added a runny basted egg to this dish, and while it may sound odd, the yolk running into the risotto just "works!" Sage browned butter is drizzled over the egg and the risotto, and the complex flavors will dance on your tongue 🙂 I hope you will step outside your "comfort zone," and give this one a try. If you simply must have "meat," serve the risotto as a side dish, and skip the egg...
Barley Risotto With Golden Beets, Soft Egg, & Sage Browned Butter
The earthy flavors of fall shine in this healthy, hearty vegetarian main dish!
- 2 golden beets - about 16 ounces peeled and cubed*
- olive oil*
- 4 cups vegetable broth or chicken
- 1 tsp. garlic minced (about 3 cloves)
- 1 cup medium barley
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 tbsp. butter
- a handfull of fresh sage leaves stems removed
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- 2.5 ounces gorgonzola or other bleu cheese*
- ¼ cup walnuts toasted and finely chopped
- 4 eggs preferably good quality farm-fresh*
- cooking spray
- 2 tbsp. water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (or 375 convection.)
On a baking sheet, spread beet cubes. Sprinkle with olive oil. Add a few grinds of sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast beets until just beginning to brown - 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.
Meanwhile, put broth in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Heat until hot but not boiling. Use a ladle to add hot broth to the risotto.
In a heavy dutch oven or risotto pan, add a tbsp. of olive oil. Heat to medium-high heat. Add garlic and barley. Stir until barley is coated and garlic begins to turn golden.
De-glaze the barley with the white wine. Simmer until wine is nearly absorbed. Add hot broth by the ladle. The "trick" with risotto is to keep the grain in contact with liquid, and add it a little at a time. It requires nearly constant stirring.
After you've got the barley cooking, start the browned butter. To a small saute pan, add the butter over medium heat. When it is melted, turn to low. Keep an eye on it. Let it begin to brown. When it is a nice caramel brown, add the sage leaves. Stir to coat. Stir occasionally until sage is crispy. Turn off the heat.
Medium barley will require 45-50 minutes cooking time. Continue adding broth as it is absorbed It is important to check a grain periodically. You want it firm, not soft. Properly cooked risotto will have very little liquid remaining, and the grains will be firm-tender.*
When barley is firm to the bite, add beets, cheese, toasted walnuts, and chopped parsley. Turn heat off, and cover while you cook the eggs.
My preferred method of cooking the eggs for this dish is poaching, but poaching can be intimidating. You do want a soft yolk and firm white. Basting is an easier option. Use cooking spray on a good non-stick pan. Get the pan hot, break the eggs into the pan, add the water, and cover. Turn the heat off. An over-easy egg will do nicely as well.
Plate one-fourth of risotto. Top with the basted soft egg. Drizzle sage browned butter, being sure to include a few crispy sage leaves. Sprinkle with walnuts. Enjoy!
You can substitute red or chioggia beets, but keep in mind the risotto may turn out pink. Butternut squash is also very good.
I have a pump-sprayer that I fill with olive oil. This works great for roasted vegetables.
You may need more or less than 4 cups of broth. Add slowly, checking for doneness, and add accordingly.
This dish really needs the strong flavor notes of a bleu cheese. If you just can't stand it, substitute parmesan, asiago, or romano grated.
I like to baste or poach my eggs for this recipe as the whites stay white, and they're more visually appealing. Cook the eggs in whatever manner you prefer. The yolk needs to be runny...
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal): 490 calories; 24 g protein; 62 g carbohydrates; 32 g fat.