Even with well over fifty diverse cookbooks lining my bookshelf, I keep returning to same tome time and again—The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I love how the folks at America’s Test Kitchen are meticulous in their recipe research and can always be depended on for fool-proof dishes accompanied by crystal clear instructions. It’s this guarantee of deliciousness that keeps me coming back for everything from cinnamon rolls to roasted beets to Thanksgiving turkey.
Late last year, America’s Test Kitchen released a companion book to my beloved three-ring bound bible: The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. I am forever on the search for dishes that pack a mean nutritional punch without sacrificing taste, so I knew this book would be a keeper.
The first “healthy” dish that I tackled was barley risotto with butternut squash—the fried sage was my own not-so-virtuous addition. Using barley in place of arborio rice, this version boasts more protein and fiber than traditional risotto without forgoing any of the dish’s characteristic creaminess. I appreciated how the hearty grain also added a toothy bite and nuttiness to each spoonful. Now, if only the Test Kitchen’s clever scientists could figure out how to reduce the amount of time spent behind the stove. Then, this recipe would truly be perfect.
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 cups pearled barley
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cups grated Parmesan
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For fried sage
- 10 sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Coarse salt
Adjust an oven rack to the upper middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the squash with 2 teaspoons of the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and spread out over the prepared baking sheet. Roast the squash until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes; set aside until needed.
Meanwhile, bring the broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover to keep warm.
Combine the onion and 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the barley, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Stir in the wine and continue to cook, stirring often, until the wine has been completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Stir in 3 cups of the warm broth and half of the roasted squash. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the bottom of the pan is dry, 22 to 25 minutes. Stir in 2 more cups of the warm broth and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the bottom of the pan is dry, 15 to 18 minutes longer.
Continue to cook the risotto, stirring often and adding 1/2 cup of the remaining broth at a time as needed to keep the pan bottom from becoming dry (about every 4 minutes), until the grains of barley are cooked through but still somewhat firm in the center, 15 to 20 minutes longer.