Remember when I made baby poo topped with doggie barf awhile back? Well, I found the leftover sopressata from that recipe in the freezer and some mushrooms and baby spinach that looked like they weren't going to survive the holiday weekend without CPR, so I brainstormed until I came up with this recipe.
OK, I lied. Cooking Light (May 2010) had a recipe for bacon and wild mushroom risotto with baby spinach that I thought could use a makeover, so I used what I had on hand to do the deed. First of all, while I'm a HUGE fan of regular risotto made with Arborio rice, I felt like I could do better from a nutritional standpoint. I think I've mentioned before that hubby and I are both trying to fend off diabetes and as pre-diabetics I'm trying to do everything possible to make sure that we don't slide down that slippery slope and end up full-fledged Type 2 diabetics. That's why you see so many recipes on my blog that incorporate whole grains. I'm not just jumping on the trendy, whole-grain bandwagon here folks; this is real life for me and my guy and I mean to go down fighting, or even better yet, not go down at all.
Research shows that barley's fiber promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption and insulin response. And at the risk of repeating redundancy (can I even do that grammatically?) I'm going to remind you that any time you eat something that slows down your digestion and glucose absorption, your tummy stays full longer. (Think weight loss!)
Enough nutrition. Let's just focus on how tasty this dish was. The barley takes on the creaminess of traditional risotto, but is left with just a little tooth (think al dente pasta.) The sopressata lends crispy, crunchy saltiness, and the cremini and dried mushrooms add an earthy deepness that stands up to the slightly firm texture of the barley. Toss in the spinach (another freakin nutritional powerhouse) and some pungent Asiago cheese and you've got yourself a taste bud's fantasy.
Barley Risotto With Sopressata, Wild Mushrooms and Baby Spinach
1 oz dried wild mushroom mix (mine was from Trader Joe's and actually weighed ,88 ounce)
1 1/2 cup boiling water
4 cups chicken broth
4 ounces Sopressata, finely diced
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup onions, diced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley (not the instant kind) rinsed
1/3 cup white wine
4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 ounces grated Asiago cheese
salt and pepper
In small bowl combine dried mushrooms and boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid. Chop mushrooms and set aside. Pour reserved liquid into a medium saucepan. Add the chicken broth and heat until hot, but not boiling. Keep broth warm on medium-low heat.
Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and add diced sopressata. Stir and brown until crispy and meat has rendered its fat. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
Add olive oil to pan. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and saute for 5-6 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add fresh mushrooms and thyme and saute until mushrooms have lost their moisture. Add garlic and reserved soaked and chopped wild mushrooms. Saute for another minute or two. Add rinsed barley and saute for another minute. Add wine and cook until wine has been absorbed. Add broth by the 1/2 cup and stir until absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup. Barley takes a full 45 minutes to cook, so you'll be adding broth and stirring for this entire time. At the end of 45 minutes, stir in the chopped spinach and cook for one minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. To serve, spoon risotto into bowl and top with reserved sopressata.