Like everyone else who has paged through its beautiful photos and recipes, I quickly fell in love with Heidi Swanson’s new cookbook. So many bloggers have written about her recipes that I wasn’t planning on blogging about it myself – until last week, when I discovered a Secret Recipe written in Invisible Ink.
Here’s how I made the discovery: I was paging through the cookbook to find inspiration for dinner, and was entranced by Heidi’s description of Bellwether Farms Crescenza Cheese in the recipe head notes for Quinoa and Crescenza on page 55, which she describes as “little pillows…of tangy, triple-cream cow’s milk cheese.”
In case you don’t know already: me love cheese. Me love cheese like Tarzan love Jane. When I read Heidi’s comments about the Crescenza, I knew I had to make the recipe.
Problem is, while I was dreamily browsing through the cookbook, I also read the recipe for Risotto-Style Barley. Yum, I thought. That sounds amazing.
A couple of days later, I was wandering through Whole Foods, trying to remember what I needed for The Recipe. I put a “little pillow” of Bellwether Farms Crescenza in my cart, along with a bag of pearled barley. I had bundle of gorgeous hot-pink-ribbed chard and a knot of purple-red spring onions from Star Route Farms at home; I had decided to use those in place of the arugula and yellow onion that Heidi called for in the risotto recipe. Over and over throughout the book, she suggests that readers swap one in-season ingredient for the other, and so I felt perfectly comfortable with this.
Then I got home and realized my mistake: the Crescenza was for the quinoa recipe on page 55. The barley was for the barley risotto on page 68. The chard was neither here nor there. Oops. Ah, well. I had barley; I had cheese. I was going to make the Heidi-inspired dish that WASN’T in the cookbook.
Dear reader, I couldn’t have been happier. The barley cooked up plump and toothsome; I used a chicken stock to give it extra flavor. The chard and onions added a vivid touch of green and pink; the cheese was unctuous and creamy. The cheese was a major find; Bellwether is local, and this product is divine. I think it would be equally good in a gratin or lightly warmed and drizzled over spring asparagus.
Barley-Style Risotto with Pink Chard and Crescenza, a la Heidi Swanson
This is essentially Heidi’s risotto recipe, minus the citrus and arugula and walnuts, plus chard and Crescenza cheese. I adjusted the amounts of liquid and barley slightly to make a dish that feeds two, but you can use Heidi’s original amounts to make more.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 small spring onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup pearled barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 large leaves Swiss chard, rinsed and patted dry
4 ounces Crescenza cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for 3 minutes, or until they become slightly soft and translucent. Add the barley, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat the barley in butter. Add the salt.
Add the wine; cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the stock in 1-cup increments, just as you would for regular risotto; as soon as the barley absorbs most of the liquid, add another cup. It will take about 30 minutes.
While the barley is cooking, chop the stems off of the chard and cut into 1/4 inch pieces. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the chard stems for 2-3 minutes, or just until they begin to soften; add the leaves and cook for 2-3 more minutes, or until the leaves begin to wilt. Remove from heat.
When the barley has absorbed most of the liquid and is tender all the way through, stir in the chard. Season to taste with freshly ground salt and pepper. Remove from heat; open up the “little pillow” of cheese and pour over the top; stir gently to incorporate. Ladle into serving bowls and eat immediately.
Makes 2 generous entrée-sized portions.