Autumn is a nice season of the year: leaves share their most brilliant colors and soil offers us healthy fall produce. One of my favorite autumn veggies is pumpkin (for more info check risotto with pumpkin). I love its sweet and chestnutty taste. I even eat it just baked plain, all by itself. This “orzotto” is a delicious comfort dish to eat on a cold, gray autumn day when you need something warm and colorful to warm you up and cheer you up too. It is a fast recipe to prepare for an appetizing meal. You can enjoy as a first course or light vegetarian lunch accompanied by a fresh salad. The addition of almonds adds a nutty and crunchy taste, while sage gives an additional delicate aroma. The term “orzotto” refers to orzo (barley) cooked as risotto. I use barley in many recipes, especially in stews and soups, because it is very tasty, nutritious and healthy. Medieval peasants ate it regularly, and it is still today a staple cereal of the Italian cuisine. It is good source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fiber. It has a lot of health benefits, such as aiding in controlling blood sugar levels (it has a relatively low glycemix index in comparison to other cereals), reducing blood pressure and keeping your cholesterol in check. It even helps to keep your intestines in working order. Finally, it will help you increase your strength and endurance. Plainly said: Eat more barley and you will be healthier!
ORZOTTO CON ZUCCA E MANDORLE (BARLEY WITH PUMPKIN AND ALMONS
320 g (heaping 1 ½ cups) pearl barley
500 g (18 oz) zucca di Mantova (or butternut squash), peeled and cubed
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)
1 liter (about 1 quart) vegetable stock
1 sprig of sage
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons toasted almonds slices
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm up the stock. Wash the barley under cold running water
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat saute the shallot in olive oil for 2-3 minutes until it is translucent and soft, but not brown. Add the pumpkin and cook for 1 minute, stirring 2-3 times. Then, add the barley and stir thoroughly for about 2 minutes in order to “coat” the barley well with olive oil, shallot and pumpkin
3. Add a soup ladle or two of the stock until the barley is just covered, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. When the stock is almost completely absorbed, add the sage and repeat this process for about 35 minutes (it depends on the barley’s cooking time, which should be clearly indicated on the package).
4. Add the Parmesan, pepper and salt, as necessary. This will depend on the amount of salt present in the stock. Before serving, top with the almonds. Serve warm.
Note: I use pearl barley (see in the picture below) in my recipes because it is less chewy, it has better taste and it cooks faster. Pearl barley has been processed to remove hull and bran. This is the most common form for human consumption. -Paola