Dietitian's tip: When cooked slowly, barley takes on a creamy texture like that of the short-grain arborio rice used in Italian risottos — but with a lot more fiber. Serve as a hearty side dish or light vegetarian main course.
- 10 large plum (Roma) tomatoes, about 2 pounds total weight, peeled and each cut into 4 wedges
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups vegetable stock or broth
- 3 cups water
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/4 cup dry white wine, optional
- 2 cups pearl barley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus whole leaves for garnish
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra ungrated Parmesan for making curls for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Arrange the tomatoes on a nonstick baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Toss gently to mix. Roast until the tomatoes are softened and beginning to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside 16 tomato wedges to use for a garnish.
In a saucepan, combine the vegetable stock and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep at a simmer.
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and saute until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the white wine, if using, and cook until most of the liquid evaporates, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the barley and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup of the stock mixture and cook until the liquid is completely absorbed, stirring occasionally. Continue stirring in the stock mixture in 1/2-cup increments, cooking each time until the liquid is absorbed before adding more, until the barley is tender, 45 to 50 minutes total. Remove from the heat and fold in the tomatoes, chopped basil, parsley, thyme and grated cheese. Add the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir to combine.
Divide the risotto among warmed individual shallow bowls. Garnish with the reserved roasted tomato wedges and the whole basil leaves. Using a vegetable peeler, cut a curl or two of Parmesan cheese for topping each serving.