you haven't met me so you don't know this, but i am BELLIGERENT about not calling healthy foods things they aren't (i.e. turkey "bacon", cauliflower "pizza", portobello "steak") to make yourself feel better about them. but with these grain dishes, which use either barley or farro and are always made in one pot, the closest actual comparison IS risotto, even though risotto is obviously its own other thing. it's because these dishes are cooked in the same way, stirring in broth bit by bit until the starch forms a silky coating on the outside, done relatively slowly, until the grains start to break down. these are a little heavier and grainier, but add a little butter and a shower of cheese and you won't miss rice.
what i like about these bowls:
- they are healthy enough. I live in LA. people are really into being thin here and are obsessed with grain bowls for this reason. they also have a lot of fiber. I calculate these around 390 calories.
- they make a great and not-sad work lunch. packing lunch for work is hard and foreign for me, having come up in a city where you are always one block away from an italian deli or a chipotle. one pot of this can cover you for 4 days, which is convenient for those weeks when you're either busy or broke.
- truly one pot. yep.
- actually infinite combinations. got random seasonal stuff? throw it in here. in this case, I had tomatoes and adult spinach from something else, and added chopped portobello mushrooms for meatiness since this dish is meat-free.
this particular concoction was inspired by smittenkitchen's one pan farro, swapping some ingredients (basil for spinach) and adding some others (mushrooms) for more of a late-summer-early-fall hybrid. but really, I make this all year long, and haven't yet found a season or mood where some version of it wouldn't be appropriate.
Effortful time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 cups dry quick-cook barley (I use trader joe's 10-minute barley)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 3 big handfuls of spinach, chopped
- 5 oz. portobello or cremini mushrooms, chopped into big chunks
- 1 1/2-2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- A splash of white wine if you have it, optional
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- Grated cheese of your choice
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. of butter and the olive oil. Brown the portobello chunks until they begin to release their liquid. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
Stir in the dry barley to cover with oil. Add the thyme, salt, and pepper.
Begin adding the broth, a little at a time, and bring to a simmer. There should only ever be just enough broth to wet the grains n shrooms, and you should be stirring pretty often to avoid sticking. This is a great time to do a nearby chore, like unload your dishwasher or clean out your overripe avocado collection in the bottom drawer of the fridge.
When you're nearing the end of the broth process (the whole thing takes about 20 minutes to cook this way, even though it says "10 minute" on the barley bag), stir in the whole cherry tomatoes and chopped spinach. As they cook, the cherry tomatoes will burst and make a tomato broth. This is good! You want this. Now is also the time to add a splash of wine if you're using it.
Once the grains feel sort of sticky and silky, pull it off the heat. Stir in the final tbsp. of butter, and stir a few more times. Top with whatever cheese you like. I had some grated asiago from the deli, so that's what you see here. Parmesan or mozzarella would also be just fine.