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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Barley Risotto

Well, we made it! We are now in D.C., trying to get settled without being able to get settled. What does that mean? It means we are still on the waiting list for base housing and are currently living in the temporary lodging facility (TLF) on base. Compared to some of the horror stories I've heard, our TLF is pretty darn nice... with one small caveat.

A TLF is fully furnished and, according to the website comes "equipped with a full kitchen." Based on my previous experiences with "full kitchens" in furnished apartments and extended stay hotels, I had certain expectations. I knew there would not be certain specialty items, so I brought some supplemental items, knowing I could be stuck in this temporary kitchen for as long as two months. So, I brought my good chef knife, a nice paring knife, my electric griddle, a cheese grater, etc. I brought my own knives, because in my experience, the knives found in these "equipped" kitchens are pretty poor indeed.

When we arrived in the TLF, after poking my head in each room, I started going through the kitchen cupboards. Oh la la!!! Good thing I brought my own knives! The only knives in this kitchen? Butter knives. The only items provided? A four place setting of dinnerware, silverware, and drink ware. One small sauce pan. One medium stock pot. One small skillet that really should have been thrown away two years ago. And one glass two cup Pyrex measuring cup. That's it! No mixing bowl. No spatula. No cutting board. No measuring cups or spoons. None of those normal, basic things you expect to find in an "equipped" kitchen. I wish I had known because I certainly could have brought all of these items. Now, I've had to go out and buy new, cheap ones.

Despite these challenges, I've managed to get a little cooking in. So far I've made spaghetti, tacos, and sauteed chicken breasts with caramelized onions. I even managed to make my favorite breakfast food, a batch of chocolate chip muffins. Of course, I had planned ahead on that one and brought everything I needed to make them (except the mixing bowl).

As you might imagine, I'm not sure how many new recipes I'll be able to develop while in this living situation, but I do have a few recipes stock-piled to share with you. This risotto is one of them. I love risotto and posted a more traditional version previously. I also love barley, usually in soups. Somewhere along the way, I started to wonder what a risotto made with barley might taste like, so I finally gave it a try. It turned out great! The texture is much more chewy than with arborio rice risotto, which I find to be a pleasant change of pace, and it is still creamy and flavorful.

Barley Risotto
Yield: 4 servings

1 1/2 TBS butter
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 cup pearled barley
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
up to 1 more cup of chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
salt & pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Saute the mushrooms and onions until soft and lightly browned. Add the barley and saute for two minutes. Add the first cup of broth and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for twenty minutes. Remove the lid and stir. Over the next 20-30 minutes, slowly add broth as needed until the barley is tender and there is enough liquid left so that the risotto is creamy. Remove the bay leaf and add the frozen peas. Cook just long enough to heat the peas through and serve.

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