This evening I have been prepping some things for tomorrow's thanksgiving feast. I was trying to decide what I could make easily for dinner. Then I happened upon a bag of pearled barley in my pantry. Hmm, what to do with it? I wonder if I could make a risotto out of it. It would be healthier than rice. As long as I could get that creamy texture from the starch, it should be ok. So, I sautéed some onions and garlic in olive oil until softened and then added a couple cups of the barley. I added a few cups of heated seaweed broth I had leftover from a shabu shabu dinner last week. The first picture shows the risotto in the early stages after the first addition of broth. I also added some dried thyme, dried parsley and some Spanish saffron to flavor the dish.
I continued to cook it slowly adding a cup of broth whenever it got dry. This took about 50 minutes until the barley became tender and a creamy texture was developed. I then added two tilapia filets (thawed and cut into pieces), about a cup of small frozen bay scallops and about 20 medium sized shrimp. I made sure to have enough liquid present so I could cook it covered for about 5 minutes. This was the result!
The risotto has a wonderful toothsome texture while maintaining a creamy quality that you would expect from a risotto. Not exactly the same as an excellent starchy rice but pretty good. The tilapia was nicely mild enough in flavor so as to not overwhelm the subtle saffron aromas. The seaweed broth provided a nice flavor of the sea. I forgot to mention the broth was also seasoned with a bit of a clam dashi (broth powder) that I picked up at my local Asian market. Overall I would have to say this was a successful and satisfying substitute for a classic risotto.
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