Monday, March 29, 2010

In Transition

When I'm feeling down, and this is going to sound so corny, but it's totally true, appreciating the small things really cheers me up.  A nice glass of wine.  A good snuggle from my dog.  A gorgeous landscape.  A sweet smelling flower.  People telling me it'll be okay just makes me choke back a snide comment (I'm full of snide comments, so that happens a lot when I talk to people).  People telling me they're sorry makes me feel hopeless.  Pretty much interacting with people when I'm down is the worst cure for me.  I like to be alone.  I like to be around things that don't require a brave face and won't judge me, should the urge to break down in tears strike.  Most of all I like to be around things that remind me I'm small, and my problems are even smaller.

As the weather has definitely made a turn for Spring, I've been outside as much as possible, appreciating all the gorgeous blooming before it gets too hot and everything dies.  Such is Southern California.  Instead of driving hours and hours to the desert, this time I just had to turn my attention to my backyard.

The sweet smell of the Jasmine

One of the sweetest smells, I think, is Jasmine fresh in bloom.  There's just nothing like it.  They used to have Jasmine bushes all over my complex, and when I walked Theo every night I would smell it everywhere.  Because of the high cost of water, they removed all the Jasmine bushes last year and opted for gravel instead.  I was a bit heart broken. But I still have one small bush in my backyard.  I can smell it every time I sit down to play fetch with Theo.

Wedding Freesia

When Husband and I got married 3 years ago we gave Freesia bulbs as a favor.  I wanted something that people could do something with. Something that would last, but not take up space gathering dust on some shelf.  I'm sure most people just threw theirs away (actually, a lot of people didn't take them home at all), but I took whatever was left and planted them in the backyard.  They only stay around for a short time in Spring, but I'm always reminded of my wedding and other barftastic stuff when I see their beautiful bright flowers.

The sun is shining, the flowers are beautiful.  I live in a nice place.  The world is big and complicated, and I am small and simple.  Everything is going to be okay.

Alright, enough with the moping!  If you read my blog, or are friends with me in any way, you can probably guess that I was laid off from my job last week.  I am currently unemployed.  A little panicked.  A little stressed.  But that's not really want I want to talk about right now.  There will be plenty more posts coming down the pipe...seeing as how I have nothing better to do now!  Ha!

So speaking of transitions, changes, and Spring, I have a new risotto recipe to share with you.  Still feeling the change in season, I decided to combine a cold weather-feeling dish with bright spring vegetables.  The results were awesome!  You might have seen the pictures in an earlier post.  They are, unfortunately, truly ugly!

See?  Blogger won't even center this ugly thing correctly.  It's too horrendous.

But don't be fooled!  This risotto was one of the best I've ever made.  I used pearl barley instead of arborrio rice.  I really liked the texture the barley gave.  Each pearl had a bite to it, yet the dish was still creamy and light.  I had seen a recipe for farro risotto with caramelized onions and mushrooms cooked in a balsamic sauce, and that somehow inspired this dish.  I nixed pretty much everything about the recipe except the onions and mushrooms.  I also like to punch up the veggie, factor, so I thought some sweet peas and fresh asparagus would brighten the dish a bit.  And they delivered exactly as planned.  This risotto was a perfect transition between Winter and Spring.

Barley Mushroom and Spring Vegetable Risotto
Adapted from this article

4 TB olive oil, divided
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
3oz prosciutto
2 shallots, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced (divided)
2 cups pearl barley
1 cup red wine
6-8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TB fresh thyme, chopped
2 TB dry sherry
1 bunch of asparagus, roughly chopped
1 bag of frozen peas, thawed and drained

1. Heat a small saute pan over medium-low heat and add 2 TB of olive oil.  Add the onions and let cook over gentle heat until caramelized, about 40 minutes.  Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl combine the mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, thyme, and 2 cloves of garlic.  Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes to marinate.

3. In a large pot heat the chicken or vegetable stock so it is at a bare simmer.  You want to keep it hot for the risotto, but not cooking.

4. When mushrooms have marinated, place the mixture in a small saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add a pinch of salt and cook until mushrooms have released their moisture.  Add the sherry (or you could substitute red wine in this step if you don't want to use two different kinds of liquor) and continue cooking until mushrooms are soft and marinade has cooked down, about 15 minutes.  Set aside.

5. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the remaining 2 TB of olive oil.  Add the prosciutto and cook until the fat starts to render, or a few minutes.  Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the barley and toss to coat in the oil.  Let it toast for a minute, then add the red wine. Deglaze the pan if any good bits are stuck on the bottom of the pan and simmer until the wine has almost completely cooked away.  Add the stock 1 cup at a time.  Stir continuously, adding the next cup as soon as the previous cup is absorbed and cooked away.  Do this until the barley is cooked through.  It took me about 6 cups. 

6. Add the asparagus and peas, and cook to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until it is melted and incorporated.  Stir in the reserved mushrooms and caramelized onions.


Kelly said...

I hope things turn around for you soon!

I love that you gave bulbs as your wedding favor! We didn't do any favors, because I feel like they are normally just a waste of money..but I probably would do bulbs if I did it over again! So clever :)

Diana Mo' said...


who would have thought that the world's pickiest little girl would grow up to write so beautifully and passionately about food.

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