Pantry Cooking, round 1

I’ve begun doing more pantry cooking, as I noted I would in my last post, over the weekend.  Shopping this week wasn’t as cheap as I anticipated, but that’s because we ran out of toothpaste, TP, and deodorant all at once, and because Stop and Shop had stuff I wanted to stock up on–big cans of Red Pack tomatoes were a buck, as was pasta.  But on Saturday night after much debating I made biscuits and ate two, warm, with eggs and some avocado–the avocado was also a buck at S&S and much of it’s still in the fridge.  Last night I made this dish on the left–not lovely, I know, but quite tasty–Barley Risotto with Mushrooms at Carrots.  The recipe is based on this one at the Splendid Table on NPR, but that original called for dried mushrooms, which I didn’t have, and the broth you get from reconstituting.  I skipped those things and simply used more chicken broth and more cremini mushrooms.

The trickiest part of this recipe was scaling–I had about 3/4 c of pearled barley, not the full cup the recipe called for, so I used a calculator to get the right amount of broth and cheese for the recipe so it wouldn’t be too loose or to bound with cheese.  The rest of the changes I more or less eyeballed.  But it went like this:

3/4 onion, chopped
2 smallish carrots, diced
about 6 oz cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1T olive oil
just over 1 t thyme
3.75 c chicken broth
white wine–about 1/3 c
3/4 c pearled barley
1/3 c parmesan cheese

Start by putting your oil in a big dutch oven or good-size sauce pot over medium heat.  Add onions and carrots and cook about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add mushrooms and a bit of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until they’ve begun to brown and cook down, about 8-10 minutes.  Add wine, thyme and barley and cook, stirring, until wine is nearly gone.  Add 3c of broth, bring to a boil, kick down to a simmer and let cook about 25 minutes, until barley is about tender, stirring often.  Add last bit of broth, stir, let it cook a bit until creamy, and add cheese.  Voila–done.  It doesn’t taste quite like regular risotto, but was lovely and hearty on a not-so-cold winter’s night.  We ate them with biscuits and roasted cabbage slices, care of an aging, wilted cabbage in the fridge that was on its last legs.  Total amount of new ingredients for this dish was only a few bucks, mainly for the 3/4-package of mushrooms and for the cheese, as we’d run out and had to buy more.  It’s something we ordinarily keep in the house but like everything else, it eventually gets eaten.

Now I can cross “1/2 c pearled barley” off my pantry list.  Tonight, mac and cheese with ham (frozen from Christmas) and broccoli (frozen, because I’m lazy).  We had cheese leftover from right after Christmas and already had the pasta, too.  I might need to pick up some milk (pretty unusual in our house), but that’s about it.

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