oy. we bought only what was on the shopping list!, and still spent about $100 bucks at the grocery store. Food is expensive! and I'm a sucker for fresh veggies and decent cuts of meat, and fancy schmancy cheeses. . . it adds up fast. Time for some cheapo meals that only look expensive.
Also, it's winter, which means I'm craving me some barley.
Also, I've been meaning to start cooking with squashes, because they are good for you, and not counting zucchini, I have zero experience with squash.
Ok, so this meal was cheap, pretty, and even the husband liked it!! it doesn't get much better than that!
Barley Risotto in Acorn Squash, adapted from Smitten Kitchen **.
2 Acorn Squash
4 slices bacon/Turkey bacon (optional)
1 onion, chopped
5 cups chicken stock/veggie stock/water/mix of those
1 cup pearled barley
2 big pinches of thyme
1/2 cup white wine or sake
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
2 tbsp butter at room temp
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (yes, you can cheat and use the stuff in the green canister. I did!)
couple tablespoons any kind of cheese you want, shredded.
this is much easier than in sounds.
Poke the squash all over with a fork. Cut the squash in half, top to bottom, and scrap out the membranes, seeds, and any other icky stuff thats in there. Set the halves flesh side down on a microwavable dish. put about a 1/4 cup water in the dish, and one half at a time, microwave for about 8 minutes, or until tender.
While the squash is doing its thing in the microwave, preheat the oven to 350, and start the bacon in a large heavy bottomed pot. Also, get the chicken broth simmering in another pot on the stove. when the bacon is done, remove and chop.
Here's where things get fun. THe barley is going to be much more forgiving than arborio rice, but you still have to pay a lot of attention to it. Don't expect to leave the kitchen for the next 30 minutes. Add the chopped onion to the pot you cooked the bacon in, adding more oil if needed. Stir in some thyme, and let the onion cook about 5 minutes over medium heat. When the onion is cooked, stir in the barley, and keep stiring! you want it to toast a little, but not burn. after a minute or two, add the wine. watch it sizzle! keep stiring! When the wine is nearly absorbed, add a ladlefull of chicken broth. and yes, keeping stiring. This is the general gist of risotto: keep stirring. When the liquid is nearly absorbed, add a little more. So you're gonna do that for the next 30 minutes or so.
Somewhere in there, your squash halves will have cooled a bit, and you can scrape a lot of the flesh out, to leave a 1/2" shell.
When it looks like you have one ladle's worth of broth left yet to add, mix the beans, bacon, Squash flesh and chard into the barley. Break the squash up with a spoon, and push the chard down under the barley so it wilts. Along with the last of the broth, add the butter, and the parmesan cheese. Stir it all up, let some of that broth bubble away, season with black pepper (I found mine didn't need any salt, but yours might), and you're nearly done.
Spoon the risotto into the squash halves, top with shredded cheese, and bake for about 30 minutes at 350.
Wow, now that I read all that, it sure looks hard and involved! but it really wasn't. Sure, you stand there and stir, and stir, and stir, and then you dump some other stuff in and stir and stir and stir, but that's really all you half to do. I was watching my husband play Assassin's Creed II while I was stiring. and then I read comics while it was in the oven. Couldn't have been easier!
And barley is so much more forgiving than Arborio! don't get me wrong, I adore Arborio, but barley is so easy, so chilled, so mellow. If you weren't so keen on the whole risotto thing, I don't see why you couldn't bake the barley in the oven with all the other stuff, like a casserole, then spoon it into the squash half and toss it back in the oven for a bit. the possibilities are endless!
** Phew! I checked! the lady from Smitten Kitchen isn't going to kill me for reposting my version of one of her recipes! I'm suddenly really worried about that kind of thing. . . .