When I found this recipe in Cooking Light, I was taken more by the picture than the title – it was called a mushroom and bacon casserole. It immediately appealed to me. I tweaked the recipe and turned it into a one-pot barley dish featuring lots more vegetables as well as optional minced beef. The mushrooms, spices and soy-sauce add enough umami to the dish, that you could easily make this into a vegetarian “orzotto”, named after the Italian word of barley, which is “orzo”. Not to be confused with orzo pasta, which has the shape of barley, kind of, but is made of durum wheat.
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 cups of lightly packed sliced mushrooms, including cremini and shiitake
1/2 lbs cooked left-over minced beef (optional)
2 cups pearl barley, uncooked
4 cups unsalted beef stock (or vegetable stock, if you keep it vegetarian)
1/3 cup Madeira (or red) wine
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
4 oz shredded tasty cheese such as gruyere, fontina and parmigiano
1 cup shredded spinach, kale or chard
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Bring stock to a simmer (not a boil).
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add carrots and celery and continue to stir until vegetables have softened, about 5 more minutes.
Add garlic and stir until fragrant, less than one minute.
Add mushrooms and salt and cook 10 minutes or until browned.
Stir in beef and barley. Cook one minute steering frequently, until barley is coated in oil.
Add red wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed.
Reduce heat and stir in 1 cup broth and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Continue until all of the remaining broth has been absorbed.
Stir in half of the cheese, as well as tomatoes, soy sauce and kale. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and cover with lid or aluminum foil.
Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove lid, and bake another ten minutes or until cheese melts.
Let stand five minutes and serve.