I've been home from my trip for a week now and my suitcase is STILL sprawled on my living room floor and I've been picking things out of it as needed like a vulture picks at a carcass. Ugh! I don't know why, but unpacking feels like such a chore. Not that packing a suitcase is more fun but at least it has the added aspect that you're packing to go somewhere, an impending travel adventure.

On a related you know what your packing style is? I never gave it much thought until I started dating Mr.S. He starts packing for trips a few days before the trip and packs A LOT. Me? I tend to pack light and the night before (or sometimes even the morning of) a trip. Guess who tends to forget things more often? You got it--him. I think my packing style drives him crazy, but what can he do? And yes, he also is the type that has to immediately (and I mean immediately) unpack his luggage the minute we get home. As soon as we hit the door, he's throwing dirty shirts in the laundry, returning the toothbrushes to their upright position in the bathroom mug and the suitcases are emptied and put away before my butt can hit the sofa.

(photo source: unknown)

Anyhow, if your significant other is like mine, let him sort out and put away the clothing, toiletries and travel souvenirs; while he's doing that, hit the kitchen and make this barley risotto for the two of you. It tastes amazing and is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter's night. My friend, Michelle, ordered a similar dish at a Midtown restaurant (Tuli's) about a month ago and gave me a taste. Inspired by it's many mingling layers of delicious flavors, I looked around for the recipe and stumbled about this version in Yotam Ottolenghi's book, Jerusalem. Be sure not to skip making the feta with caraway seeds- it really add an amazing dimension of flavor to the dish. I had never used caraway seeds in a dish before and was surprised at how aromatic and tasty they are- kind of a nutty, anise-like taste. The barley risotto itself has a nice chewy texture and a deep tomato flavor. This scrumptious dish works great as a main course or as a side dish and is an easy meal to prepare for vegetarian friends. Although barley risotto is definitely less temperamental to prepare than traditional risotto, remember to still stir often so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta (you can find the original recipe in his book, Jerusalem)
makes 4 servings


1 cup pearl barley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 stalks celery, diced
2 small shallots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
4 strips of lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
1  14-oz can chopped tomatoes (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes)
1 1/4 cups of passata (I used Pomi's strained pureed tomatoes instead)
scant 3 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
10.5 oz  feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
salt, to taste

1. In a mesh strainer, rinse the barley and leave it to drain.

2. In a large pot, melt the butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the celery, shallots and garlic. Cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes, until softened. Then add the barley, thyme sprigs, smoked paprika, bay leaf, lemon peel, chile flakes, chopped tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, stock and salt. Stir to combine.

3. Bring the mixture to a nice boil, then reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 45 minutes (uncovered). Stir frequently to prevent the barley from sticking to the bottom.

4. While your barley risotto is cooking, toast your caraway seeds in a small, dry pan until they start to impart a toasty, nutty smell. Remove from heat immediately. Place in a bowl (or with a mortar and pestle set) and gently crush the seeds.

5. In a medium sized bowl, combine your toasted caraway seeds, crumbled feta and remaining (4 tablespoons) olive oil. Mix to combine.

6. When the barley is soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat. Divide your barley portions into bowls and top with marinated feta and a sprinkle of fresh oregano.
3 Responses
  1. Ruby Says:

    Sounds tasty! May just have to try that one. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  2. Unknown Says:

    Some of my favorite things that I never would have thought to combine, looks yummy! (P.S. I take 100 years to unpack too. It's a thing.)

  3. Ally Says:

    Sarah, I wouldn't have either if we hadn't tried it at Tuli's. I love how much easier the barley is to cook than the Arborio rice. Less time standing over the stove.

    (As I type this the suitcase in question is sitting there giving me the stinkeye.)

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