Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fall with a little summer thrown in

The cooler weather may have turned thoughts to baking, soups and other comfort foods, but today's sunshine and warm temperatures begged me to throw something on the grill. I didn't want to abandon my original plans to make a barley risotto, however, so I improvised.

Barley Risotto

The recipe called for me to dice the chicken and then cook it along with the barely for 40 minutes. Unless you're cooking with thigh meat, that will only result in very dry chicken. Normally I'd cook the chicken breast halves whole (about 4-6 minutes on each side) and then dice, adding the chicken toward the end just to heat through. The sunshine beckoned me outside, so I decided to grill the chicken instead. By no means a necessary part of making this recipe good, just a whim on a nice day.

As I searched through the refrigerator for the ingredients I needed, I found that I was out of carrots and nearly out of celery. In place of the carrots, I used a small bit of red bell pepper that was sitting in the vegetable bin which I thought would do very nicely, and it did.

I didn't have 40 minutes to cook the barley, so I used the quick-cooking barley to speed up the process. Not before I had already opened three cans of chicken stock, I realized that the quick-cooking barley probably need less liquid, so I went with just two of the cans and cooked the barley with the lid off, more like one would cook a proper risotto. I served this with one of our favorites, zucchini-pecan sauté.

We all the enjoyed this dish quite well. Not a spectacular meal by any means, but just the sort of thing that's easy to throw together, nutritious and very adaptable to different items you might already have on hand.

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