Barley makes a hearty stand-in for Arborio rice in this updated version of risotto, which is enriched with two kinds of cheese and some of our favorite spring vegetables.
Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Peas
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, spears cut on the bias into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 cup (4 1/2 oz./140 g) minced shallots
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 cups (12 oz./375 g) pearl barley
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) dry white wine
6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) chicken or vegetable broth, warmed
5 oz. (155 g) goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) peas
1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In an essential pan or a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the asparagus, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Reduce the heat to medium and warm the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the barley and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it is absorbed. Add 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) of the broth and cook, stirring constantly, until it is almost completely absorbed, about 10 minutes. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) at a time, stirring constantly until it is almost completely absorbed before adding more.
When the barley is tender and the risotto is creamy, after about 30 minutes, fold in half of the goat cheese, stirring until creamy and no lumps remain. Fold in the peas, asparagus and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and season with salt and pepper. Add more broth if needed to reach the desired consistency.
Divide the risotto among shallow bowls and top with the remaining goat cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.