March 11, 2013
The hungry baby—you know, the one who’s nearly 3 1/2 (i.e., not such a baby anymore)—is growing up fast. So very fast. I love how he speaks now, with a burgeoning understanding of how to string words together properly and an increasingly confident intuition about verb tense. I love how he’s learning to stand up for himself while remaining his big brother’s absolute, psychotically dedicated, number one fan. I love how he’s become self possessed enough to tell me (accurately) whether or not he needs a nap, or at least whether or not he’s going to take one.
But, as always for me, these developmental bursts where I can new gears turning and synapses firing—all at once!—are bitter sweet. It’s awesome. And emotional. Kind of like this recipe.
Simple Barley Risotto was always one of my favorite foods to make when my kids were babies. It’s creamy and delicious for grown ups (and babies), packed with veggies and whole grain for babies (and grown ups). High in fiber, relatively low in fat, spiked with quality protein and calcium rich, it’s pretty much a perfect one pot, healthy, tasty meal for all.
I don’t know why I hadn’t made this in so long. I know that this dish is good for families with kids of any age, the same way that I know my littlest boy is growing up. I guess I just associated it with having babies, the same way I still associate him with being my hungry “baby.” These things are hard to reconcile sometimes, but it’s pretty gratifying when we finally do.
Creamy Vegetable and Barley Risotto with Chickpeas
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)
5 ½ cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
½ teaspoon fresh thyme
1 ½ c pearled barley
¼ cup white wine (optional; the alcohol will cook off, but you may want to skip if sharing with babies or anyone who does not drink alcohol)
One 15-oz can chickpeas
1 ½ cup finely diced butternut squash (I like using zucchini in spring and summer, about 2 small)
One 14-oz can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (pasteurized if sharing with young children)
2 scallions, chopped
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Juice from ½ a lemon
1. Pour broth into a medium pot and place over medium heat. As soon as it begins to simmer, lower the heat to medium-low. You want to keep the broth warm through the cooking process, but prevent it from cooking off.
2. In the meantime, heat oil in a large pot or deep skillet. Add the onion and thyme and cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the barley. Stir to coat the grains well and cook, continuing to stir, for 3 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and allow it to cook off.
3. Add 1 cup of warm broth and cook, stirring until it is nearly absorbed. Repeat one more time. After the 2nd cup of broth has nearly cooked off, add the chickpeas and squash. Stir to combine and add the 3rd cup of hot broth. Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, making sure each cup is nearly cooked off before adding the next. Right before the last cup of broth (which may be more like ¾ cup at this point), add the artichokes. Stir to combine and then, finally, add the last bit of broth.
4. The risotto should be done by the time the last amount of broth is nearly absorbed. The barley should be al dente. If it requires more cooking time, add just a little bit of water or broth, cook until absorbed and test again. When done, take the risotto off of the heat and stir in half of the feta cheese (1/4 cup), 1 chopped scallion, half of the parsley and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste (you may want to remove baby’s portion before adding salt, as the feta is salty enough for little ones). In a side bowl, combine remaining feta, scallion and parsley to use as garnish. Puree baby’s portion to an age-approrpirate consistency; serve warm.