The trick to this recipe? Homemade chicken broth. You won’t believe the flavor it gives a seemingly simple dish like this barley risotto (which might otherwise be somewhat unremarkable). We’ve been stashing the carcasses of rotisserie chickens in the freezer, and when we’re up to three or so we break out the stock pot and get a boilin’. If you’ve never made homemade chicken stock before, it’s really quite simple. We first like to saute some veggies in a bit of olive oil (onions, carrots, celery, garlic), then deglaze it with a bit of Madeira wine. Add in the chicken remains, some bay leaf, whole peppercorns, fresh thyme, parsley stems (or any other fresh herbs/herb stems you have), and a bit of salt. Fill with water, and boil away for 2-3 hours or until your entire house smells DIVINE. Strain, and allow the broth to cool before skimming off as much fat as you can (if you refrigerate it this will be much easier). We then measure it out into 1/2, 1, and 2 cup portions and freeze it for later use. We haven’t bought chicken broth in almost a year. And if we keep buying and saving the bones from rotisserie chickens, I don’t see us doing so anytime in the near future.
With the rich flavors of homemade chicken broth reduced down and completely absorbed into the barley, you’ll forget that this meal is actually healthy for you. It’s that good. I mean, technically our homemade broth is probably not the low-fat broth called for in the recipe, but boy is it worth it.
Just make sure you plan ahead for this one. Ever made risotto before? Yeah… add 20 minutes to that. The barley really cooks at its own pace, ours took a good hour before all the liquid was absorbed, and even then it was still a wee bit al dente. Do yourself a favor and get the risotto going first, THEN tackle the roasted tomatoes and eggplant, the opposite order of what the recipe originally says to do.
6 cups (1/2-inch) diced eggplant
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
5 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled soft goat cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine broth and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until onion begins to brown. Stir in barley and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup broth mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 40 minutes total). Barley will be tender but still slightly al dente.
Meanwhile, Combine eggplant, tomatoes, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; toss to coat. Arrange mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until tomatoes begin to collapse and eggplant is tender.
Gently stir eggplant mixture into barley, along remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and salt to taste. Top with cheese, basil, and nuts.