Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cheesy Pumpkin Barley Risotto

"Why not barley and 'cheese'?" I thought, as I inwardly rebelled against making yet another pasta dish for Sawyer and Abiline's lunch. Why not, indeed. While Sawyer tends to have spasms when a big bowl of rice or quinoa is placed in front of him (I usually have to fry such dishes into veggie burger patties before they will be accepted), I have had consistently good results with barley, which has a chewy texture that makes it quite pasta-esque.  Of course, you could use this cheesy sauce on macaroni as well, for yet another vegan homage to the classic dish.  While I was blending it up in the food processor, Abiline scampered into the room at the sound of the familiar buzzing, exclaimed, "dough!", clambered up the kitchen stool, and dug in with her fingers (once the machine was stopped, of course). Chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and nutritional yeast--yes, I let her dig in.

2 cups pearl barley
5 cups vegetable broth, or water plus 5 tsp. veggie broth powder

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup raw sunflower seed kernels
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used oat and hemp.)
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3-1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange champagne vinegar (could sub with more lemon juice)
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 1/2 tsp. dried ground sage
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp. agave 
pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute until browned and starting to caramelize.
2. Scrape the cooked onion into your food processor work bowl, return the skillet to the stove top, and add the barley. Stir it around for 2-3 minutes to coat it with the remaining oil in the pan. Add the broth and raise the heat a bit to bring it to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 30-35 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the broth and looks creamy in texture.
3. While the barley cooks, add all of the remaining sauce ingredients to the food processor (starting with 1/3 cup nutritional yeast) and buzz until smooth.  Taste and add additional salt, pepper to taste, or more nutritional yeast if you want to up the cheesiness. Just stir the sauce into the cooked barley, and cook for a few minutes to warm it through. It's great with some broccoli on the side!

Sawyer did like this recipe, asking "Why does the risotto taste so good?" but what he likes more is that he isn't taking a nap anymore.  He has trouble falling asleep at night, so to get him good and tired, he gets to stay up and have quiet time playing on his bed while Abiline sleeps.  During quiet time this week, he made this Lego version of his favorite tunnel slide park, and boy was he thrilled:

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