I am so glad you clicked through because I have to be honest…this is definitely a “ratatouille” “risotto.” A handful of liberties have been taken in the making of these two classics. Fun liberties, though, like barley instead of arborio rice and purple cauliflower instead of eggplant.
So this was definitely one of those dishes that formed in my brain in a particular way but did not necessarily turn out exactly as I had envisioned. I saw a creamy barley risotto in my mind’s eye but my barley did not see things the same way. This kind of thing happens when cooking from scratch without a recipe and it is actually the most exciting part. Something doesn’t turn out quite how you imagined…so what do you do? You have to take stock (vegetable stock) of the situation and formulate a new plan. My recommendation (for this and all future dilemmas) is to add sour cream and goat cheese. Not a whole lot, but yes, both of them. It is almost like cheating…because how could that be bad? I also stirred lima beans directly into the barley itself instead of just putting them on top since they are starchy and creamy to begin with (and really round this whole thing into a substantial meal). So my non-creamy barley got a creamy sauce added to it and became a “risotto.” And I am glad it happened on the fly, keeps you sharp.
For the barley risotto:
- olive oil to coat a pan
- 2 shallots, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 cups of hulless (aka hulled) golden barley (you could definitely use pearl barley here if you wanted to achieve a closer likeness to real risotto. Using arborio rice to make real risotto is completely awesome as well.)
- 5-6 cups vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- a dash of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 cups cooked lima beans
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- Coat large rimmed pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat.
- In another pot, bring vegetable broth to a boil.
- Saute shallots in olive oil for 4 or 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute.
- Toss barley into pan and toast for a minute or so. Add bay leaf, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
- Cover barley with boiling vegetable broth and stir. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour stirring occasionally so that the barley doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the barley is cooked (should be plumped and soft with most of the broth absorbed), take it off of the heat. Remove bay leaf.
- Allow barley to cool for 5 or so minutes. Add sour cream and goat cheese and stir to combine. The goat cheese takes a bit of coercing but just keep stirring and it will become a thick, flavorful sauce.
- Then gently stir in lima beans taking care to not turn them into mush.
Now this meal requires some multitasking, because as soon as you add your vegetable broth to the barley, you will need to begin chopping all of this stuff up.
For the ratatouille:
- olive oil to coat a pan
- 3 shallots
- 3 cloves of garlic
- a medium head of purple cauliflower, cut into small florets (if you have eggplant on hand, feel free to riff less than I did and use that instead…the cauliflower is really delicious though!)
- 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
- 3 medium zucchinis, sliced into thin rounds
- 2 giant tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper
- fresh parsley and parmesan cheese to garnish.
- Heat olive oil in stock pot over medium heat.
- Add shallots and cook for a few minutes to soften. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
- Add cauliflower and green pepper and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Next, throw zucchini and dried thyme into the pot. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Finally, add tomatoes and their juices to your mix. Season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. I basically cooked mine until the barley was finished cooking in the other pot.
- Once everything is done cooking, top barley with the ratatouille mixture. Garnish with fresh parsley and shaved parmesan cheese.
While this dish was definitely an experiment, I wholeheartedly encourage you to make it. The summer’s bounty in one simple pot on top of barley with sour cream and goat cheese…it’s a good idea.
In other news, dry your own herbs because it is so easy, cheap and useful! And then you can use your dried thyme in your “ratatouille” “risotto.” Happy experimentation friends! Remember, it is half the fun.