Thursday, January 22, 2009

Smackdown: Arborio versus Barley

While browsing my meal options for the week this past Sunday, I came across two interesting recipes: one for a super-easy Almond-Vanilla Arborio Rice Pudding, and another for Barley Risotto. I had assessed the contents of my food cabinets just before stumbling upon these recipes and was coincidentally thinking about risotto, since I had quite a bit of arborio rice on hand.

But, barley risotto? I had searched Stop & Shop for barley only a few weeks earlier with no luck. I thought barley was an American staple?! They do sell pearl barley in bulk at the co-op, though, and I bought some for this project. I had never been exposed to barley before, and I was so pleased with the results of this risotto. Many thanks to Kristen Swensson and her post on Serious Eats!

I used chicken stock to make this risotto, but would like to make it again with vegetable stock. I also used the fabulous new enameled cast iron pot that I received for Christmas. In fact, I have used it 3 times over the past 3 days — I cannot recommend it enough.

I added a package of organic frozen grilled vegetables to the risotto for extra nutrients. It was a beautiful thing.

While I was still digesting this dinner, I decided to do a bit of research on barley. As it turns out, I didn't made the uber-healthy meal that I thought I had. The pearl barley I bought could be compared to white rice. It's entire hull and germ have been removed, rendering my little grains much less fibrous than in their dehulled state in which only the outermost part of the hull is removed. (Barley's outer hull must be removed to make it edible.) I am guessing that risotto could not be made using dehulled barley — it would take much longer to cook, and the consistency would likely be altered. It's certainly worth a try, though! Dehulled barley is an amazing source of fiber and nutrients — you can learn more here.

Determined to use my stash of arborio rice, the rice traditionally used to make risotto, I quickly mixed the ingredients for Smitten Kitchen's Almond-Vanilla Rice Pudding. It required so little attention and so few ingredients (all of which I had on hand), that this immediately became my go-to quickie dessert.

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