A varied diet is a first step toward a healthier lifestyle, and I always like to search for alternatives to ingredients which tend to be a staple in my meals. Brown, wild, or red rice are never missing from my pantry, and when I get bored, I replace it with barley. As versatile as rice, barley comes with a nutty flavor, a chewy consistency, and a mineral-rich nutritional profile, making it perfect for creating a vegan risotto with a posh name – barlotto.
One of my friends cooked a wonderful beet risotto for us, which I dreamed of reproducing at home. She used slices of cooked beet to give the risotto a lovely pink color, and of course, tons of parmesan to create creaminess and intense flavor.
We rarely eat parmesan (except on our trips to Italy, when we put it into almost everything), and I actually wanted to make this dish totally vegan and richer in nutrients by undercooking the beets, while still preserving that creaminess and delicious taste of the original risotto.
Barley made a great alternative, both taste-wise and nutrition-wise. This cereal grain contains a high-concentration of minerals, including magnesium, manganese, and selenium, essential for supporting our bodies’ natural detoxification process.
I am especially happy with this nutritional data because of my hormone imbalance, which requires a quality source of magnesium and selenium to support healthy thyroid function. Barley also contains soluble and insoluble fiber, helping digestion and elimination of toxins, cholesterol, and old estrogen, preventing these from leaking back into the bloodstream.
I combined it with beet to create a nutrient-rich meal with a lovely appearance. Beets need no introduction when it comes to their health benefits, especially toward the detoxification process. Its unique antioxidants, called betalains, are involved into the activation of glutathione-S-transferase enzymes, which neutralize the toxins and make them water-soluble for excretion in the urine. Beets also offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer protection.
- 1 cup whole barley
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 lime, peeled
- ½ cup hemp hearts
- 1 medium beet, peeled
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2-3 mint leaves, crushed
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Mixed seeds and fresh mint leaves, to garnish
- Slice the beet and lime to fit into your juicer, then process to obtain fresh juice.
- Transfer into the blender together with the hemp hearts and process to obtain a creamy sauce.
- Heat the olive oil into a medium sauce pan and add the onions.
- Fry for three minutes until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for a few seconds.
- Add the barley and mix to combine.
- Gradually add the stock, ½ cup at a time, while stirring continuously, until all the stock is absorbed.
- Add beet-hemp sauce and mint leaves, and mix to incorporate.
- Season with freshly ground black pepper, garnish with seeds and mint leaves and serve warm.