I was in the mood to make resolutions this week. It may be 7 weeks til opening day of resolution season, but the timing feels right as the last few weeks have felt more than a little like the first weeks of the rest of my life. The sugarcured ladies and our compadres started the course that will take use right up to the end of our preclinical years of med school and the exam-that-shall-not-be-named, a course that should rightfully be titled “Learn All of the Diseases, onyourmarksgetssetgooooooo.” It’s actually called CPP&T. For your future reference. I’ll try not to talk about it ad nauseum but it might be tough to find other things to talk about sometimes.
I don’t know if my back or my bookshelf is going to break first under the weight of the textbooks I have to schlep around for CPP&T, and oddly enough, the more I read textbooks, the more I want to spend time reading things that aren’t textbooks so at the top of the resolutions list is “read more things that aren’t textbooks.” Hyde Park is a veritable oasis of bookstores, and I spent a couple of leisurely hours browsing the shelves last weekend in my state of post-finals bliss. I bought and devoured the new biography about one of my favorite authors and now I’m craving fiction and taking recommendations and I’m thinking that this was a very good resolution.
Luckily, since I get to make the rules, reading cookbooks totally fits the resolution bill. I got to visit one of my top 5 favorite bookstores on the planet while in MN a while back – you read right, I managed to do something beside eat while I was there – and I felt it my duty as a loyal customer to purchase the cookbook I’d been ogling on Amazon for weeks- Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. You might remembering me raving about Ottolenghi’s Plenty and this new book might stand a chance to displace the older, adored Plenty from it’s spot of highest honor on my shelf. At least until I get my signed copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook tomorrow…
I don’t really know how you could go wrong with barley and tomatoes and feta, but Ottolenghi and Tamimi, as expected, make these simple ingredients shine. Don’t be fooled by the name risotto- there’s no fussy boiling of broth and constant stirring involved here. Like all good comfort food, the barley and the feta only get better as they sit in the fridge overnight and the leftovers make for the kind of lunch you’ll have to force yourself to wait until lunchtime to eat.
Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta
1 c barley
1 T butter
4 T olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into small dice
2 small shallots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 t smoked paprika
4 large strips lemon peel
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
3 c vegetable stock
1 1/4 c crushed tomatoes, liquid drained (note: I used one large can of diced tomatoes and pureed and drained half of them to serve as the crushed component)
1 T caraway seeds
8 oz feta, broken into small pieces
Rinse and drain the barley.
Melt the butter and 1 T olive oil in a very large frying pan. Cook the celery, shallots, and garlic over medium heat until soft but not brown. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, lemon, pepper flakes, tomatoes, and stock plus a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat so the mixture can simmer gently and cook about 45 minutes, until barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Be sure to stir often to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cooking time may vary based on what kind of barley you use.
In the meantime, toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan until they just start to darken. Lightly crush them with the back of a spoon (it’s ok to leave some full seeds). Mix the caraway with the remaining olive oil and feta. Mix to combine and leave to marinate until the risotto is done.
Once the risotto is done cooking, taste and adjust the spices, salt, and/or pepper. Serve topped with marinated feta + oil.