Serious Eats: Recipes

Healthy & Delicious: Barley Risotto

Editor's note: On Mondays, Kristen Swensson of Cheap, Healthy, Good swings by these parts to share healthy and delicious recipes with us.

Beyond the cookies, the caroling, the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh, the nicest thing about Christmas is the booty. (Not that kind. The other kind.) I’m 31 but love receiving presents as much as I did in 1989. It’s just the gifts themselves are a little different now. Instead of a Jon Bon Jovi poster, I get kitchen shears. Instead of a Richie Sambora poster, I get a cleaver. Instead of a Tico Torres poster, I get … man, I really liked Bon Jovi.

Anyway, this year, hidden deep under the Christmas tree (next to socks from CostCo., if you must know) was Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Light Recipe book. Upon unwrapping it, I thumbed through immediately, and found about 47,654 dishes to try before 2009 kicks in. The first to make it to my actual mouth was Barley Risotto, which was an unqualified success.

Fancy enough for company, but simple enough for a Sunday meal, the recipe substitutes pearl barley for the standard Arborio rice, and adds finely diced carrots for a touch of sweetness. The result is higher in fiber (9 grams per serving) and lower in calories (290 per serving) than rice-based risotto, with a lighter, nuttier flavor and a pleasant, substantive chew. Cook’s Illustrated suggests serving it with a cut of lean meat, but it’d do fine on its own, no problem.

One thing: the book’s cooking times were slightly off. Each step took me 3 to 10 minutes longer than what CI asked for, and that differentiation is reflected below.

In the meantime, I hope everyone’s holiday was lovely and bright, and you received everything you have asked for. Either that, or a Bon Jovi poster.

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