Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cooking with Julie! a.k.a. who really follows recipes anyway?

Barley, Butternut Squash, and Shiitake Risotto

This is what I made today. With a number of variations. I'm sharing my recipe and the original, entitling this post "Cooking With Julie" because I've recently had a number of people act very interested when I tell them I "cook." I have to clarify which definition I'm using. That's what the quotes mean.
a. Cook, v., as in "create a food dish that is enjoyable to eat."
b. Cook, v., as in "fumbles ingredients into something swallowable." 
I'm normally b. This butternut squash - mushroom (kind of, see edits) - barley risotto might actually belong in the (a) category. And I altered a number of things (see my attention levels) and it was still tasty and delicious. 


  • 3  cups  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds) When I need to cut butternut squash, I usually put it in the oven for about 10 minutes because the skin softens a little bit. I just used a butternut squash. No measurements.
  • 3  tablespoons  olive oil, divided
  • 3/4  teaspoon  kosher salt, divided
  • 2  cups  thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 1/2 pound) Don't really like mushrooms... but I put some in anyway. Probably the equivalent of 1 oz. (But it worked out for me.)
  • 1/3  cup  finely chopped red onion
  • 1  cup  uncooked pearl barley Hmm, yeah, I don't know if I used pearl barley. I used a Quaker box that says "Medium barley."
  • 2  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2/3  cup  white wine  Did you know wine goes bad after you open it? I thought it just kept getting better. This is a long way for me to say "I used water instead of wine." (Go ahead, insert religious miracle joke here.)
  • 3 1/2  cups  organic vegetable broth Hey, actually did this one!
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 4  ounces  Taleggio cheese, diced So, the cheese connoisseur at Meijer didn't know what this was. And I didn't remember that it suggests Brie if you can't find Taleggio. So I shredded some smoked Gouda cheese. Good choice. 
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh thyme leaves Need I even say whether I really included this or not?


1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Combine squash, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss well to coat. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes, stirring once.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until browned (or until they burn and stick to the bottom of the pan about 30 seconds later. Burn #1), stirring occasionally. Transfer mushroom mixture to a bowl; keep warm.
4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add onion; saute 4 minutes or until tender (or until they, too, burn and stick to the bottom of the pan some time later. Burn #2 - but apparently, burnt onions are a good thing!), stirring occasionally. Add barley and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine; bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed. Add broth, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is nearly absorbed. Remove from heat (Burn #3 - a finger); add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in squash, mushrooms, and thyme. Serve immediately.
Go out and make someone's day today (or tomorrow, depending on when you read this.) Psychologists have found that meaningful conversations mean more than small talk - start a meaningful conversation! Somewhere, I read an article that says people respond better when physically touched - students in school who receive physical contact from the teacher (i.e., a tap on the arm) are more likely to answer questions in class. Plus, people are happier when they hold hands... but I can't find the real source right now. Sorry! But look on the bright side - I just summarized some reading for you!