Here in New York City, we keep bracing ourselves for the crisper, colder days of fall. Yet summer seems to be hanging on stubbornly, maybe to make up for the cold, miserable spring we had that stretched all the way to June. Some people are itching for lower temperatures to break out their fall finery, but I'm happy that I can still walk to work in a sleeveless sweater and squint at my desk as the hot sun pours through my window. It'll be cold soon enough...
While visiting Boston in the summer, I snagged a recipe from my stepmother's copy of Everyday Food (I know, I've mentioned this before. My stepmother has a lot of good subscriptions! So I try to sneak a few in my bag when I'm at their house. Very surreptitious, aren't I? Hi, Susan!). It was for a version of risotto using pearl barley. I've never cooked with pearl barley before, and I had a bag of purple basil left over from a CSA share, plus I liked the idea of using frozen corn for simplicity's sake, so I set out last night to make this.
First, I sauteed an onion in some olive oil until it was translucent, then I added the pearl barley and cooked it for another minute or two.
I added some hot chicken broth and basically proceeded as you always do with risotto, ladling in hot broth, stirring over low-ish heat until the liquid is absorbed, adding more broth and so on (credit where credit is due: I made Ben do the stirring and he excelled at it.)
After a while, the barley started to plump up and the risotto thickened slowly.
When the grains were fully cooked but still pleasantly chewy, I threw in a box of frozen sweet corn, and cooked the mixture for another few minutes, until the corn was heated through. Then I added a handful of torn basil leaves and a few gratings of Parmigiano.
It was wonderful! The combination of textures - faintly crunchy corn and chewy barley - and flavors - sweet kernels, minty basil, nutty cheese - was just delicious. Plus, it was easy to make and healthy to boot. Since basil is easy to find at grocery stores all year round, this is a light, summery dish that could easily be made in colder months because of the ease of using frozen corn. I know, frozen vegetables (besides peas, and I'm personally kind of partial to frozen brussels sprouts) are sacreligous. But I have to admit that the practicality and light, sweet flavor of the corn won me over. At least this time.