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I hoard whole grains.

Currently stocked in my cupboard are: brown rice (instant and long-cooking), white and brown Basmati rice, wild rice blend, quinoa and toasted Israeli couscous. (I also have steel-cut oats, but I don’t know if that counts).

These grains are the perfect bases for the other staples of my diet: beans and roasted vegetables. The former I hoard in cans and bags; the latter majorly consists of sweet potatoes and the key ingredient of tonight’s dinner.

Tonight I’m trying a Real Simple recipe for Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash. It’s in the oven now, and my house smells like toast mixed with apple cider vinegar, which is what I used instead of dry white wine. I guess I shouldn’t be nervous; I do like toast and vinegar. Although maybe not together.

I also removed the onion from the recipe. Once I started leaving onions out of recipes, I realized that onions have a lot of liquid, so I accommodate with a little water or, in the case of tonight’s recipe, a bit more homemade vegetable broth. The real key here is getting that pearl barley fully cooked.

After 35 minutes, there was still a lot of liquid in the bottom of the pot, so I put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes. The photo with the recipe shows some liquid in the dish. As long as the barley is cooked.

Forty minutes, and resting on the stove for a few minutes, did the trick. The barley absorbed all the liquid and was fully cooked—chewy with that funny snap between the teeth. The Parmesan cheese and the tomato in my broth added a nice richness (dare I say umami?) The squash wasn’t as sweet as I’ve had it, but it worked for this savory dish.

All in all, a good dish… and husband approved, to boot!