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Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

In grad school, my main source for recipes was AllRecipes.com.  I wouldn’t find out about food blogs until a few years later, and probably would have laughed if someone told me that years later I’d be writing for fun about baking and cooking.  (I might have stopped laughing if you then told me that I would still be freelancing at this point.)

One thing that drove me nuts about All Recipes is that so many of the comments would go something like this:

This dish sucked!  I subbed peanut butter for the broccoli, nixed the flour and doubled the tomato sauce, and it was TERRIBLE! (1 out of 5 stars)

I mean, really?  That’s totally not the recipe, so how can you rate it?

baking beauties

This was back when I would follow every single recipe to a T for fear of messing it up.

Now I’ve really let myself go and mess with most cooking and baking recipes, even if they’re for something I’ve never made.

Like risotto.

yummy things

I always imagined it would be difficult, but after reading about it, it just seemed to require a lot of attention.  Once I think something sounds easy, then it’s all down hill.

In this case, I found three recipes that sounded good, and so I used elements from each.  Heidi from 101 Cookbooks has a recipe using farro which I couldn’t find in the bulk section ($5 for a bag, though), so I went with her other suggestion of pearl barley.  This sounded like a more nutritious option than arborio rice (though not as much as hulled barley), so I went with it!


Butternut Squash Barley Risotto
adapted from Williams-Sonoma, with inspiration from 101 Cookbooks and Epicurious (Gourmet)

I’m usually too lazy/cheap to use wine in recipes, but decided to go with Whole Foods’ $3 wine (it looks like this).  You can just use broth in place of it if you’re not into cooking with wine.  Also, I think I’d use more rosemary and sage next time, but that may just be a personal preference.  If you eat gluten-free and/or would rather use arborio rice, by all means go for it!

1 butternut squash (mine was just over a pound)
6 – 8 cups vegetable broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups pearled barley
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 oz arugula or baby spinach (6 cups), stems discarded and leaves very coarsely chopped
3 – 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Salt, pepper, and ground cumin to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Place halves face down on a baking sheet with edges and pour in about 1 cup of water.  Bake for 30 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, scrape the meat from the skins. At this point, you could either mash it with a potato masher or puree in a blender or food processor.

Whisk together the squash puree and 6 cups of the vegetable broth in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook until it reaches a simmer, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Turn down the heat to low.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onions in about a tablespoon of the olive oil until caramelized.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.  Pour in the remaining olive oil and the barley and stir for 3 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed.

Pour one ladle of the broth mixture into the skillet.  Stir continuously and once the broth has been absorbed, pour in another ladle.  Keep stirring and adding broth in this manner.  It will take awhile (at least 30 minutes), but you want the barley to be tender.  When the barley is ready, it will have a chewiness to it along with a slight crunch similar to quinoa.  You may need to keep adding broth; I ended up using a total of 8 cups.

Once all the broth has been incorporated, stir in the butter, arugula or spinach, and parmesan.  Taste the risotto and season with salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.  Serve with additional parmesan, if desired.

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

I really enjoyed the flavors happening in this: butternut squash, rosemary, sage, arugula, and cumin!  It’s surprisingly filling, thanks to the barley, which gives you a little more something to chew than rice.

Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Best of all, it’s easy and perfect for fall!