dinner for two: barley risotto and roasted brussel sprouts

my quest for a lower cholesterol level continues.  over the last year, i have taken to preparing vegan dinners several times a week.  generally, i make sure that there are leftovers as well so i can also get a lunch or two out of them.  luckily, there are so many good books and websites out there to guide me.  and before you think that vegan cooking is simply utilizing meat substitutes, think again.  sure that is a reasonable line of thinking but truth be told, there are so many options that never include meat (or any animal products) to begin with.  besides, many of those simulated meat and dairy products are highly processed and that makes them a little less appealing to me.
in the past, i have mentioned my tendency to shop in thrift stores.  one of my other favorite haunts is mckay’s books.  if you live in nashville (as well as knoxville and chattanooga), then you are familiar with the place.  in short, mckay’s is one of the largest used book stores around.  and by large, i mean large. my husband and i will go there and easily spend an hour or more perusing just a few of the shelves.  the prices are very reasonable and the selection ranges from vintage to new with all of the bases are covered.  while scanning the shelves, i have found books on just about any type of cooking or baking.  just don’t expect to find everything all of the time.  repeat visits are necessary if you are really looking for a specific book or type of book.  
it took me several visits, but i managed to find two of the vegan books i wanted and one of the best scores ever, a $2 copy of how to cook everything by mark bittman.  while this book is not the least bit vegan, many of the recipes can be easily adapted if necessary.  while rummaging through the cupboards in search of an easy dinner, i came across a jar of barley.  my first thought was of a risotto made of barley and sure enough, bittman delivered in the form of a simple and fool proof recipe.  

just like with arborio rice, the barley is slowly cooked in a saute pan with mushrooms, onions and herbs.  stock is added, bit by bit, to produce a creamy and pleasing texture that is not clumpy or heavy. the recipe can be made with any kind of stock but the best part is that it does not call for cheese so there was no need for me to use a vegan cheese substitute.  the mushrooms, onions and herbs as well as some white wine, provided plenty of flavor.

and since a meal of barley seems a little lacking, i roasted up a bunch of brussel sprouts using a recipe for roasted cauliflower steaks.  it was simple; mix up the spiced oil blend and rather than brushing it onto thick slabs of cauliflower, then simply coat the brussel sprouts with the oil.  they cook quickly and i only had to turn them over once, in short, an easy dish to prepare since the risotto required some attention.

barley risotto and roasted brussel sprouts
serves 2
barley risotto adapted from how to cook everything by mark bittman
3 cups hot vegetable broth, approximately-more may be needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced mushrooms-any kind 
1/2 cup pearled barley, rinsed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to tast
1/4 cup dry white wine
keep the stock over low heat so that it remains hot.  heat the olive oil in a saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat and saute the onions until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.  add the mushrooms and saute until they are soft and have given up their juices, about another 5 minutes.  add the barley and stir until glossy, about 1 minute.  add the herbs, salt, pepper and the wine and turn the heat up to medium high and let the wine reduce until it is almost gone.  reduce the heat to medium-low again and begin adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time. stir frequently until the liquid is almost evaporated but do not let it dry out or it may scorch.  continue adding the broth as needed until the barley is tender, at least another 30 minutes.  serve immediately.
roasted brussel sprouts adapted from the roasted cauliflower recipe on gluten free fix
1 pound fresh brussel sprouts, raw
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon paprika
freshly cracked black pepper
preheat the oven to 400.  cut the brussel sprouts in half.  mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.  toss the sprouts in the oil mixture and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet that is lined with paper.  roast until caramelized on the outside, about 20 minutes.

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