A warm, slithery slurp of minestrone is all well and good, but I'm more partial to the next-day thickening after the soup's pasta or grains have been refrigerated in tomatory broth. The effect is risotto-like, encouraging recipe developers to affix "-otto" to the tail end of such dish names.
This barlotto is my new favorite of that genre, made with pearl barley. What the grain loses in fiber - vs. its hulled counterpart - it makes up for by cooking faster while retaining a characteristic chew. Here, sun-dried tomatoes amp up the red flavor, and the squash cooks just long enough in the one-pot mix to become tender.
You could toss in fresh or dried herbs, but I like the simplicity of the dish's onion and garlic.
Should you find yourself with chilled leftovers, dig in with a spoon before you warm them with a slosh of water or more vegetable broth.
Yield: 3 servings
1/2 large red onion 3 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil Sea salt 1/2 medium zucchini 1/2 medium yellow squash 1 whole roasted red pepper (from a jar) 8 sun-dried tomatoes (vacuum-packed, preferably) 1½ cups pearl barley (see note) 4½ cups no-salt-added vegetable broth 2 cups no-salt-added canned crushed tomatoes and their juices Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving (optional)
Mince the onion (about 3/4 cup) and garlic; together is OK.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion and garlic. Add a three-fingered pinch of the salt and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until softened, stirring as needed.
Meanwhile, trim the zucchini and squash halves, then cut them each into thin rounds. Coarsely chop the roasted red pepper. Cut each sun-dried tomato in half lengthwise.
Stir the pearl barley into the skillet; cook for a minute or two, then add the zucchini, squash, roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, stirring to incorporate.
Add about one-quarter of the broth; cook for a few minutes, then stir in a half cup. Continue in the same gradual cook-and-add manner to use a total of 2½ cups of the broth.
Add the canned tomatoes and their juices; once the liquid returns to bubbling at the edges, taste the barley to check for doneness. If it seems a little chewy or firm, gradually add some or all the remaining broth, cooking until the pearl barley plumps and thickens the mixture like a risotto. Taste and season with more salt, as needed.
Divide among warmed bowls; top with the cheese, if using, and serve right away.
Note: Whether called pearl barley, pearled barley or 365 Brand's "organic Italian barley" that cooks in 10 minutes, you need barley without its bran and/or endosperm. It will be lighter in color and faster cooking than barley that is simply labeled "hulled."
Serve with warm garlic bread.
Nutrition information per serving (using 1/4 teaspoon salt): 540 calories, 14 g protein, 103 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 370 mg sodium, 16 g dietary fiber, 20 g sugar.
Source: Adapted from "Eat Your Way to a Healthy Gut: Tackle Digestive Complaints by Changing the Way You Eat, in 50 Recipes," by Dale Pinnock.