Culinary Therapy: Risotto

I love to make risotto. As I have written on my blog previously, I find it therapeutic. The act of stirring, adding broth, and stirring some more is soothing at the end of a stressful day. It encourages mindfulness because it’s hard to do much of anything else when you are making risotto.

I don’t make risotto very often, partly because it takes time, but also because it’s usually made with Arborio rice, a starchy, short-grained rice that is usually refined. (However, brown Arborio rice is available.)

Wanting something less refined, I started searching for barley risotto recipes. Although I typically associate barley with soup, stews and salads, it seemed like a healthy choice. Research has shown that barley may reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and it is also high in fiber, potassium and other nutrients.

I settled on a Wild Mushroom and Barley Risotto recipe from Eating Well magazine. Although the recipe called for several types of wild mushrooms, I decided to just use baby bella mushrooms, which I already had and are more flavorful than white mushrooms.

The recipe begins with sautéing chopped onion, adding the mushrooms, and then adding a half-cup of red wine. After the wine has nearly evaporated, you begin adding a half-cup of hot broth and water and stirring until the liquid has evaporated. You continue doing that for 35 to 45 minutes, until the barley is tender.

Then you stir in arugula until it is wilted, remove it from the heat and stir in Parmesan cheese and butter. I used pecorino Romano and Smart Balance.

We enjoyed the dish, which was rich and savory, with none of the guilt. Next time I’d like to experiment with a variety of mushrooms. I’d also add the arugula at the very last minute, so it doesn’t wilt quite as much.

This was a nice addition to our rotation that relieves stress while tasting delicious!

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