Barley is said to help stimulate the immune system, so we created this recipe as an alternative to the traditional rice dish.
3 tbsp olive oil
4 small or 2 large leeks (white parts only), thinly sliced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1-1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms
1 cup pearl barley*
5-1/2 cups hot vegetable broth
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 tbsp mascarpone cheese or cream cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for coating garnish
*Do not use pot barley
Step 1: Set aside some of the larger mushrooms and keep them whole for garnish, including stems (one or two per serving). Stem and coarsely slice the rest.
Step 2: Heat olive oil in large heavy pot to medium high. Stir in leeks, onion and the sliced mushrooms. Cook until the ingredients are softened and begin to look cooked, about 2 minutes.
Step 3: Add the barley and stir through for about 1 minute until barley is coated with olive oil and there is a slightly nutty aroma.
Step 4: Stir in the hot vegetable broth one 1/2-cup at a time, allowing broth to get almost cooked off before adding next quantity. After adding final quantity of broth, do not cook it all off. The risotto should still have some liquid in it.
Step 5: Finish by stirring in the parsley and mascarpone, if using. Season to taste. Cover and keep warm while preparing the garnish.
Step 6: Preheat the broiler. Toss reserved whole mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper. Set in baking dish with gills and stems facing up. Broil until mushrooms begin to look cooked, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven.
Step 7: Plate warm risotto and top with one or two whole roasted shiitakes. Serve immediately.