Italian culinary purists are up in arms about supposed American abuse of their cuisine, with dishes like this one being held up as evidence of sacrilege. So lambaste me, but not until you’ve tasted this dish, which resembles risotto in texture, but definitely is not risotto. Similar dishes are appearing with increasing frequency on the tables of restaurants with open-minded chefs. Serve with crisp vegetables, such as sliced fennel, dressed with olive oil, lemon, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Yield: 4 servings as a main course
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cups mixed mushrooms, such as chanterelle, cremini, morel, and oyster, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup pearl barley
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chopped
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until a piece of onion sizzles when added. Add the onions; cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it turns white, 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms; cook until soft, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the barley to coat.
Add the stock, salt, and turmeric; bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.
Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, pepper, and butter. Serve with lemon wedges.