I was on a bit of a barley kick a few weeks ago, but a tiny bag lasts a pretty long time. Since plain steamed barley gets old, I've been trying to figure out ways to make it more exciting. Enter: barley risotto. Technically, it's not a risotto since it's not made with rice, so technically, it should really be called "barlotto," right?
To make the basic barley risotto, heat 4 Tbsp olive oil in pan over medium-low heat, add 1 c. very finely chopped onions (about 1 medium sized onion) and cook until the onions are translucent (and try not to let them brown, though since barley is brown, it won't look as bad as if you were making real risotto). About halfway through, add about 2-3 garlic cloves that have been very finely minced.
Add 1 c. well-rinsed pearl barley and stir with onions and garlic until barley is coated with oil. Add 1/2 c. white wine, a few dashes of salt and pepper to taste and stir until the wine has been cooked off and absorbed into the barley.
Reduce heat to low. Add 2 c. warm chicken stock to the barley and let simmer until the stock has been absorbed, stirring occasionally (but not continuously). You will have to continue adding stock about a cup at a time until you've used a total of about 5-6 c. stock and the barley is tender (but it will still be chewy).
Right before serving, stir in 1 c. Parmesan cheese.
There are many ways to modify the recipe - adding vegetables like mushrooms (seems to be the most popular), and even roasting the barley in the oven before cooking on the stove top, as per Michael Chiarello of NapaStyle.