Pearl Barley and Butternut Squash Risotto


1 medium butternut squash, weighing about 2 pounds 1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tbsp. pure maple syrup

1 tbsp. chopped sage leaves, plus 12 whole sage leaves

1 shallot, finely chopped 1 cup pearl barley

1/2 cup white wine

5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade or low sodium store bought 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Risotto is an Italian rice dish, but you can also think of it as a cooking method. The grains are cooked slowly, adding one ladleful of stock at a time and stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until all the liquid is absorbed. The purpose of this technique is to encourage rice to release starches and achieve a creamy texture. Serves 4 as a side dish


1. Begin by frying the whole sage leaves for the risotto garnish. In a very small sauce pot, heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil at medium-­‐high. Test to see if the oil is ready for frying by dipping in the tip of a sage leaf. It will sizzle if the oil is hot enough. Fry 4 sage leaves at a time, cooking them until crisp and slightly curled, about 15-­‐20 seconds. Remove the crisp sage leaves and place on a paper towel to dry and preserve the oil, which is now infused with sage flavor.

2. Roast the squash. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the squash’s thin outer skin. Slice it in half lengthways, from stem to base. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Trim off the woody stem end and base end. Cut the squash into 1/2-­‐inch cubes and place in a roasting tray. You should have about 4 cups of cubed squash. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon leftover sage oil, maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Pour the mixture over the squash cubes and toss to evenly coat. Place the roasting tray on the top shelf of the oven and cook the squash 20-­‐25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until tender and caramelized.

3. Cook the risotto. Pour the chicken stock into a medium sized pot and bring to a gentle simmer, then turn t he heat down to low and keep it warm. Heat a large, heavy-­‐bottomed pot over medium and add 2 tablespoon s of the reserved sage oil. When the oil is warm, toss in the shallot and cook for a couple of minutes, until tender and translucent. Add the pearl barley and stir to coat in the oil. Toast the grains for a minute, stirring occasionally, then pour in the white wine. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add a ladleful of warm chicken stock and allow the barley to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been completely absorbed. Add another ladleful of the stock and stir occasionally as all the liquid is absorbed into the barley. Continue adding stock until the barley is just tender but still has a pleasantly toothsome quality, about 40-­‐50 minutes. As you add the last ladleful of stock, stir in the chopped sage leaves.

4. When the barley is ready it should be not be dry, but instead creamy and flowing. You can always add a bit more stock and let it simmer for a moment if the risotto has dried out just before finishing. Stir in the squash, butter and grated cheese and serve immediately in warmed bowls. Garnish each bowl of risotto with three crisp fried sage leaves.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving (Based on homemade chicken stock with no added sodium)
Total Fat21 g
Saturated Fat8 g
Cholesterol34 mg
Sodium318 mg
Total Carbohydrates81 g
Dietary Fiber6 g
Sugars10 g
Protein38 g