I’m home alone. This is the best time to sit and write a post – no distractions, a full belly, wine flowing – the dishes can wait!
I decided to crank up some tunes to break the silence in the house – other than Thatcher’s sonorous snoring [this is her usual pose] – you can hear a pin drop! Good ol’ iTunes is the perfect tool to organize music. I went to the Recently Added playlist and spotted an album I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet – Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons. Richter has created a remarkable homage of Vivaldi’s classic. Each movement presents a nod to the original theme which is suspended beneath the recomposed portion – either an eery and ethereal chord progression (Spring 1), a Nigel Kennedy-styled frenetic fugue (Summer 2), a short looping, minimalist Glass-styled vamp (Autumn 3), or a pared down version with a barely-there shimmering string accompaniment (Winter 2). An album I highly recommend! I was introduced to Max Richter’s music through HBO’s haunting blockbuster The Leftovers. The series, if you don’t know it, is set in New York state and focuses on life in the idyllic town after 2% of the world’s population mysteriously disappeared. The show was laced with Richter’s stirring music – the main piano theme seemed to make a cameo or two per episode. Richter’s is compared to other contemporaries: Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Steve Reich – the trilogy of minimalist music. It is no wonder I am so drawn to his music.
Enough rambling – now on to the food! I am lucky to have numerous supporters of my culinary interests. I gratefully receive fun kitchen tools or foodie/ethnic ingredients when family and friends travel. Each gift is accompanied by a heartfelt and passionate story of why and how this item has made its way to my house. As previously described, the LCBO’s Food & Drink is an absolute favourite magazine. I was lucky enough to received the Autumn 2014 issue very early in the season – Thank you, Ted! Almost by fate, I opened this issue directly at the barley and wild mushroom orzotto recipe – the barley-version cousin on the arborio-based risotto. A quick study of the ingredient list and I surmised this would be an Italian-version of my usual barley-mushroom soup. A few days later I gathered the two last ingredients missing from my pantry/garden – dried porcini mushrooms and leeks. On Rachel’s recommendation, I bought whole dried mushrooms from our local Asian grocer – though, now I can’t remember why they were deemed better than the sliced dried mushrooms. All they seemed to do is increase my chopping time! The fresh creminis and dried porcinis, however, elevated the orzotto above the Moosewood soup. It stayed true to its Italian roots and delivered a creamy risotto-like product. This is a significant contrast to the soup’s savoury and peppered broth. Both dishes use the same words but speak different dialects! I will keep the orzotto recipe as an accomplice to the soup.
Pearl Barley Orzotto with Wild Mushrooms
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 pkg (15 g) dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 1 leek (white and pale green part only, thinly sliced)
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups pearl barley
- 1 cup red wine, such as Gamay or Pinot Noir
- 6 cups beef stock (approx.), divided
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup finely chopped chives
- additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add cremini mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until any liquid exuded by mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms are browned and tender, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a 1-cup microwaveable measure, combine water and porcini mushrooms. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and pierce a few holes in wrap. Microwave at high power for 30 seconds, then let stand for 5 minutes. Drain porcini, discarding water. Rinse and drain mushrooms, pat dry and chop finely.
3. In a large saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter with remaining oil over medium heat. Add porcini mushrooms, leek and rosemary. Cook, stirring often, until leek is soft but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4. Add barley, stirring to comine with porcini mixture. Add wine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until most of the wine has been absorbed by barley.
5. Add 5 cups stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally until most of stock has been absorbed an barley is tender buy chewy, about 40 minutes. Add addition stock if barley has absorbed all the stock before it becomes tender.
6. Stir in cremini mushrooms, Parmesan, remaining butter and all but 1 tbsp chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon orzotto into a warm serving dish and scatter with remaining chives. Serve with additional grated Paremsan cheese.
HINT: Do not discard the flavourful mushroom soaking liquid. Allow it to settle and use to replace an equivalent volume of beef stock. Just make sure to leave the gritty debris behind.