Pearled barley yields a creamy, toothsome risotto. And here’s your language lesson for the day: The Italian word for barley is orzo (not to be confused with the rice-shaped pasta of the same name), and risotto made with barley is called orzotto. Yes, we probably should call this orzotto, but most people will think of this as risotto. In any case, it’s delicious by any name. This recipe also would be tasty with pearled farro (labeled farro perlato) if you find it at gourmet markets, in which case, this would be farrotto.
I’ve made this dish successfully with all kinds of greens, but I like tender baby spinach and bok choy derivatives the best. Keep in mind that you want a touch of water clinging to the greens, but not so much that they’ll swim when they’re wilting. Note: If choosing tough-stemmed greens like chard or beet greens, slice the stems into 1-inch lengths.
Years back, my mother took a Chinese cooking course and learned this recipe. Our family, including my husband now, has loved it for years. Napa cabbage is terrific this time of year. A vegetarian version is simple to make by subbing the pork with black mushrooms and slivered carrots. And remember, practice makes perfect and imperfect still tastes wonderful, so have fun.
Back in the day in San Francisco, when A16 was Zinzino, we lived just a block and a half away on Chestnut Street. One of our all-time-favorite dishes there was parchment-baked spaghetti and meatballs. It was, truly, the ultimate comfort food. The noodles were shot through with flavor with an altogether unique texture—chewy in a good, satisfying way. Zinzino turned into A16 not long after we left the city and that dish disappeared along with it. Until now. I’m happy to report that, after all these years, I’ve successfully replicated it here.