Barley and roasted asparagus risotto
We got our fist CSA basket last Friday, containing asparagus, lettuce mix, radishes, green onions, micro-greens, kale, Swiss chard, small turnips, and a small-leaved basil transplant. Although the farm owners apologized for such a "scanty" basket*, I thought it was plenty enough, given the spring we have had!
Part of this whole project is to see how well I do at actually eating seasonally, so I will be completely honest here - I had such a busy weekend (with an out-of town guest - had a GREAT time though!!), that the compost ended up getting the perishables - the kale, chard and micro-greens. My apologies to the growers, since I know I would be pissed to see my hard work getting tossed out!
However, the lettuce, radishes and green onions went into my first salad of the year, complete with a dressing made with my chive vinegar - yum!
And I was trying to figure out what to do with the turnips and asparagus. I know I could have simply cooked them as usual, and eaten both as a veggie, but I wanted something a bit different. Something that would extend the vegetables into a main meal, since spring is traditionally the "starving" time of year, and I think it's important to have a store of recipes that, while taking advantage of what is available, keeps this in mind. Omelettes and soups would both work, but I wanted to challenge myself, and try something new.
And lo and behold, I had a brain-storm one day - risotto. Keeping with the "local" theme, I chose barley over rice (not that this barley is local, that I know of, but it could be, unlike rice). The information that came with the basket suggested roasting the turnips, so I thought a roasted veggie and barley risotto would do. And seeing that I had stock, barley and Parmesan cheese (I know, not local, but again, could be) on hand, I didn't have to buy any groceries to make this work. Unfortunately, when I went to clean and cut the turnips, I realized each was occupied by some insect, so those, too, went to the compost. But the asparagus was good! Again, I don't follow recipes, but this is basically what I did:
1 bunch of asparagus, washed and trimmed.
1 onion, minced (or, if, like me, a mince is beyond you, chopped as small as you can!)
2 cups barley
4 cups stock (I used store-bought beef stock, in a 900 ml container)
~1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (please use the real stuff, not the impostor that comes in the plastic container! (says the woman using store-bought stock...))
vegetable oil, salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
Heat a glug of oil in a large pot, over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, and cook until soft. Add the barley, and cook for ~1 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the barley is cooked and the stock is absorbed. (I cooked mine for the full 45 minutes, and it was still a bit chewy, but that's the way I like it. Like all risottos, the liquid volumes and cooking times are suggestions only, since it really depends on what grain you are using, and how tender you like it. )
While the barley is cooking, place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet and pour a bit oil over it - just enough to lightly cover. Shake the pan back and forth to distribute the oil, then salt and pepper to taste (do not use a lot of salt, especially if you are using store-bought stock!). Place in the oven, and roast for 5-10 minutes, watching very carefully - thin asparagus will not take long at all to roast, thicker will take a bit more, but this is a very quick cooking method! Every few minutes, take the pan out, shake it back and forth to move the asparagus around. When it is tender, take it out, and allow to cool slightly. Cut into ~2-3" pieces when it's cool enough to handle (adding it to the cooked barley will heat it back up).
When the barley is done to your liking, add the cheese and chopped asparagus. Stir well, taste, and adjust any seasonings. (I found it salty enough, and almost too salty - next time, I'll use home-made stock, since the salt on the asparagus, and the salty cheese, are enough for my taste.)
Then dish up and enjoy!!
Since I only have a half share, it means I get a full basket every two weeks, so no basket this Friday. But if I'm not working Saturday, I'll head out to the Farmer's Market, and see what looks good there! Meanwhile, there is another blogger who belongs to the same CSA - go see what she's making with her bounty!! She has posts at Eating Local in Niagara and Eating Niagara. Enjoy!
* for future weeks, I will try to take a picture of the basket before I unpack it. Blame a busy weekend for this week's lapse!