Comfort food to fuel fall

(BPT) – Cooler breezes, crackling leaves and earlier sunsets are a few of the signs that fall is here. So is the availability of fall fruits and vegetables, like grapes and squash. Whether fall means football games, walks in the woods, fairs and festivals, or outings with family and friends, it’s easy to work up an appetite enjoying the activities of the season. Plan on packing along grapes for the day and also enjoy them as an ingredient at home in new and different ways.

Grape Barley Risotto puts a spin on a classic Italian dish by switching in barley instead of rice for a nutty flavor, heartier texture and extra fiber. Grapes from California are the signature ingredient, replacing tomatoes to deliver subtle sweetness and juicy flavor that accent the savory tastes of mushrooms, cheese and the barley. The grapes also provide a lovely burst of color that enhances visual appeal too. Whether for family or friends, this hearty fall dish is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

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Grape Barley Risotto

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: Makes 8 servings


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 package (8.8 ounces/about 1 1/3cups) Italian barley, rinsed in a strainer

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 package (10 ounces) cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 package (8 ounces) sliced shiitake mushrooms

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 cups red Grapes from California (about 10 ounces)

1/4 cup finely chopped chives


In a large saucepan with a lid, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until shallots begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the barley and continue stirring to toast lightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in 3 cups of the broth and the thyme and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low, cover with the lid and simmer until the barley is tender to the bite and most of the broth is absorbed, about 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep covered.

While the barley is cooking, prepare the mushroom and grape mixture: In a deep, large skillet or wide, enameled Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add one-third of the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to a bowl, and repeat with the remaining mushrooms and oil, adding 1 tablespoon more oil per batch. When all the mushrooms are cooked, return them to the skillet and season to taste. Pour in the wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Once the wine has evaporated, add the cooked barley to the skillet with the mushrooms; stir in the remaining broth, parmesan, and grapes. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is piping hot. Season to taste and stir in the chives.

Ladle the risotto into shallow bowls and serve each portion with sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Note: This risotto can be prepared a day ahead without the chives, then reheated with chives.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 270 Calories; Protein 8 g; Carbohydrate 38 g; Fat 10 g (33% Calories from Fat); Saturated Fat 2 g (7% Calories from Saturated Fat); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 170 mg; Fiber 6 g.