news flash: barley is good!!

summary: mushroom risotto orzotto; removing deep seated prejudices about barley; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

barley For ages, I held onto the ridiculous idea that I didn’t like barley. Even though Katie (Thyme for Cooking) has been repeatedly reminding her readers about the barley’s virtues. She has also not left out the fact that it tastes good too, noting that barley is not just in beef/barley soup, but is also a primary ingredient in many types of beer and whiskey.

[B]arley […] has more than 3 times the fiber of brown rice, or blueberries; more than twice that of whole-wheat spaghetti or an apple. In addition it’s high in selenium, tryptophan, copper, manganese and phosphorus. It’s been shown to help lower cholesterol and control Type 2 Diabetes. It’s fiber is particularly friendly to the bacteria that live in your gut, keeping your intestines healthy and happy. And it tastes good.

-Katie Z, Why eat barley?, Thyme For Cooking

Katie uses barley in stir-fries, stews, salads and gratins. The photos and descriptions of the various dishes look fabulous.

So. Why did it take me so long to believe her?!

I blame it on the bowls and bowls of inferior tinned beef/barley soup I ate for school lunches. Really, it’s ridiculous how taste-free and mushy barley gets when it’s served that way.

But every time I’ve seen one of Katie’s recipes for barley, I think, “I’ve GOT to try that! It looks and sounds so good.”

Then last November (yes, I know I’m way way behind here), we were watching Michael Smith preparing risotto on Food TV. I adore risotto….

But wait just a minute here!! Smith didn’t use rice in his risotto!! He used barley. That’s not risotto!! Risotto has to have rice.

So, what IS it called if a dish is made with barley rather than rice? I just looked in an etymological dictionary. Is it perhaps “barizzo”??


Ha! Isn’t the internet wonderful? I believe I just found the answer by googling “Italian barley recipe”. Yes, that has to be correct: the dish is called orzotto.

barley But whatever it’s called, suddenly, we decided we neeeeeeeeded to try it. We just happened to have some chicken stock in the freezer and a couple of chops just begging to be fried. There was broccoli in the fridge. What was stopping us?

Ha. Barley. We needed barley. We only had a few grains (I’d used whatever we had to make multigrain bread…).

So we hopped on our bikes and rode to the market to get pearl barley. While we were there we got a few more dried mushrooms too (it won’t do to run out of dried mushrooms!)

Our dinner was fabulous. So fabulous that we may not buy mor arborio rice when it runs out. We’ll get barley instead.

Here are some orzotto recipes:

Katie!! Why oh why didn’t you tell me how good barley is when it’s prepared this way?! Heh. I might even add it to soup. Maybe I’ll discover it’s good that way too. :-)




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