Mushroom Asparagus Barley ‘Risotto’ with Gouda Goat Cheese Recipe

I came up with this recipe when I had just a few ingredients remaining in my kitchen, and I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I wanted a simple, yet delicious, one dish veggie meal… something like risotto, but I didn’t have Arborio rice. So I experimented with pearled barley (which is used a lot in soups) I had in my kitchen cupboard and the few veggies, goat cheese and pine nuts I had in my refrigerator. This is the result; a simple, yet delicious one dish dinner that can be made in bulk so you have leftovers for the week. You can even add wild salmon or a meat if you so wish. One of the secrets to this dish is cooking the pearled barley until it’s just tender or al dente. You don’t want to overcook it because it will get mushy. Good luck! 

Serves 4 (as a main dish, can also be served as a side dish)


1 cup of pearled barley
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil (divided)
1/3 pound of asparagus
1/2 pound of crimini or shiitake mushrooms
2 green onions chopped
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1-2 teaspoons of champagne or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of fresh herbs like oregano, basil or thyme
1/2 cup grated Gouda goat cheese

salt and pepper to taste
more grated gouda goat cheese to pass


Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil in a heavy medium-sized pot. Reduce to a simmer, add 1 cup of barley. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until barley is tender, 45-50 minutes (do not overcook, or it will become mushy).

Meanwhile, wipe mushroom caps with a damp towel to remove any dirt and twist off stems and save for a later use (or compost). Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a medium size pan over medium-high heat. Slice mushrooms and add to pan and brown for 2-3 minutes, then turn and brown for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add 1 teaspoon of champagne vinegar, sauté another minute or 2.

Meanwhile, using a double boiler, fill pan with water 1/4 of the way up. Wash asparagus and cut on the bias about 1/2” – 1” long. Steam asparagus until bright green (do not overcook). Remove to an ice water bath.

Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add pine nuts and toast 1-2 minutes until golden brown (do not walk away, they burn quick!).

When pearled barley is done and just tender, stir in 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil and add a pinch of salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of champagne vinegar. Stir a time or two over medium heat. Stir in mushrooms, asparagus, green onions, grated cheese, fresh herbs and pine nuts.

Salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately with grated cheese on the side.

images: John Klein

Laura is a trained chef with roots in the organic food movement and brings intelligence, intoxicating energy and girl-next-door... More about Laura Klein, Chef & Wellness Expert