Welcome to a new summer series on A Pear to Remember: corn. Corn is not so exciting—or appealing—when processed for sandwich bread, condiments, granola bars, candy. But let’s consider an ear of corn picked from tall green fields: a 63-calorie vegetable with less than 1 gram of fat, 2.4 grams of protein, and 8% of our daily requirement for dietary fiber. Not so evil.
Sure, we could boil cobs to death and slather with butter. Or, we could slice off the kernals for something a little more exciting. Risotto would not be my go-to summer dinner, unless we’re stirring in seasonal herbs and veggies. The wonderful thing about substituting barley (a fiber-packed whole grain) for arborio rice is how much better it holds up to the cooking process. Risotto is lovely, but there is a fine line before arborio rice becomes thick, gummy and impossible for leftovers. Barley is hearty, more forgiving, and stands up to reheating for lunch. And risotto need not be intimidating: pour, stir, pour, stir, pour and stir under tender—you can do it. Play music, relax.
Here is a substantial summer supper, and a new use for your basil bush beyond pesto.
Barley Risotto with Corn and Basil
from Everyday Food, serves four
1 32 oz. carton reduced-sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
corn kernels from 3-4 ears or 10 oz. package frozen corn kernels
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated (about 2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
In a medium saucepan, bring broth plus 4 cups water just to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan (or Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add barley; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.
Then add wine; cook, stirring, until evaporated, about 1 minute.
Add 2 cups hot broth mixture; simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. (I find it’s better to leave a little broth-y than to let the grains overcook and dry out).
Continue adding broth mixture in this manner until barley is tender and mixture is creamy, 40 to 50 minutes (you may not have to use all the broth, but I save it for re-heating the next day). Add corn; cook just to heat through, 4 to 5 minutes.
Stir in basil and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with extra cheese.
My servings may look a little corn-heavy (I used four ears!), but it was sweet, crunchy corn I (literally) purchased in the middle of a field from an overall’d Delaware farmer and I wanted to use every last bit.