Barley Risotto with Fennel
This convenient alternative to traditional stovetop risotto uses healthy, fiber-rich whole grains—either barley or brown rice—seasoned with Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and oil-cured olives. The gentle, uniform heat of a slow cooker allows you to cook a creamy risotto without the usual frequent stirring.
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds
- 1 cup pearl barley, or short-grain brown rice
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or “no-chicken” broth
- 1-1½ cups water, divided
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup pitted oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Coat a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Crush fennel seeds with the bottom of a saucepan. Combine the fennel seeds, diced fennel, barley (or rice), carrot, shallot and garlic in the slow cooker. Add broth, 1 cup water and wine, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the barley (or rice) is tender, but pleasantly chewy, and the risotto is thick and creamy, 2½ to 3½ hours on high or low.
- Shortly before serving, cook green beans according to package instructions and drain. Turn off the slow cooker. Stir the green beans, Parmesan, olives, lemon zest and pepper into the risotto. If it seems dry, heat the remaining ½ cup water and stir it into the risotto. Serve sprinkled with the chopped fennel fronds.
Make Ahead Tip: Prepare fennel, carrot, shallot and garlic. Combine broth, 1 cup water and wine. Refrigerate in separate covered containers for up to 1 day.