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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Vegetarian Cooking with Zel

Sometimes it just feels good to chow down on a homey dinner packed with chewy grains and tidbits of veggies endowed with nature's delicate sweetness. That's what I crave when cold, windy, and rainy weather drives me to the kitchen to make a little magic that perks up a grey, stormy day. Here's a wonderfully toothy barley main dish that allows the home chef plenty of creative liberty to add different vegetable favorites.

The key to a great risotto is being attentive to the need for frequent stirring and frequent additions of water. You may be surprised that this dish devours up to 5 or 6 cups of water during the cooking process that can take up to 1 hour. This simple dish derives its main flavors from onions, carrots, and parsnip, though herbs like garlic, marjoram and thyme provide welcome herbal subtlety.

This unique risotto does not break down into the typical creamy texture of those made with Arborio rice. Instead, you'll experience the full texture of the grain, though it is considerably lighter and much more tender.

I like to start the meal with a hearty tossed salad and add a side dish of Brassica Stir-Fry, an easy and delicious way to enjoy broccoli and cauliflower.

Barley Risotto


Yield: 6 servings

    2 large onions, diced
    2 medium carrots, diced
    3/4 cup (180 ml) pearl barley
    1 large parsnip, diced
    4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1 whole clove

    5 to 6 cups (1.25 to 1.5 liters) water

    1 14-ounce (395g) can diced tomatoes
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) baby spinach or chopped Swiss chard
    1/3 cup (80 ml) sliced black olives

    1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, optional

  1. In a large skillet combine the onion, carrots, barley, parsnip, garlic, salt, thyme, marjoram, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, pepper, and whole clove. Add 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) of the water and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until the water begins to evaporate.
  2. Add more water as needed, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup (120 to 180 ml) at a time, and continue cooking for about 50 minutes. Check the skillet frequently to make sure there is sufficient water. Continue stirring and adding water, each time cooking until the water begins to evaporate. Adjust the heat as needed to insure the vegetables and barley cook without burning.
  3. When the barley is tender, add the tomatoes, spinach, and olives and cook 1 minute longer. Add the lemon juice, if desired, and adjust the seasonings to taste.


Yield: 4 to 5 servings

    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

    3 tablespoons water
    1/2 large head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
    2 large broccoli crowns, chopped, stems included

    Salt and pepper
    1 cup (240 ml) cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

    1/4 cup (60 ml) toasted sliced almonds

  1. In a large skillet, combine the olive oil and garlic and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Add the water, cauliflower, and broccoli, and cook, stirring frequently for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until the vegetables are just fork tender. Add small amounts of water as needed to prevent burning the vegetables.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and add the garbanzo beans. Cook 1 minute longer and transfer to an attractive serving dish. Sprinkle lightly with paprika and garnish with the sliced almonds. Serve on the side with the Rainy Day Barley Risotto.

Click here for past cookingwithzel@home.comeonin recipes

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