Asparagus Bygotto with a Green Dream Sauce

Why use anything but arborio rice when making risotto? That’s probably what every Italian reading this, including my dad, is thinking.  But this bygotto so creamy, textured and flavourful you’ll forget you’re munching on barley and not rice.

This time last year I was interning in the wonderful Pollen + Grace.  Each day was spent cooking, cutting and packaging the vibrant and wholesome food that goes into each P&G box and snack.  Apart from missing all of the raw brownie ends and banana bread cut offs that I would stuff myself with on a daily basis, what I miss the most are the group lunches.  Come 1 o’clock or so, we would push together a few tables and fill our plates with all of the delicious bits and dressings that hadn’t made it to the lunch boxes that day.  On my last week of work, the head chef Virginia whipped up an incredible risotto made with brown rice, leeks and mushrooms. Yes, brown rice! It was so insanely creamy and I was completely blown away.  This super-green bygotto is my take on the arborio-less risotto, and is comfort food at its finest.

I don’t have much of a problem with white rice and will never turn down my dad’s porcini mushroom risotto, it’s out-of-this-world delicious.  I just tend to gravitate towards different grains for either flavour preferences, to mix it up or to just generally take in as much of the goodness that is in  grains in their more natural state.  My choice to use barley for this was inspired by a porridge spot here in Copenhagen, called Grød, which boasts an impressive collection of seasonal grain dishes.  The savoury dishes at Grød almost all contain dairy to cream them up so to achieve the same level of creaminess that both dairy and arborio rice generally achieve, I cooked the pearl barley in coconut milk. Ahhh-mazing! And I promise, there aren’t any traces of coconut taste in the finished dish, just creamy goodness.

What else? Well no biggie, the bygotto is then just topped with the BEST green sauce you’ll make this summer.  It’s the sauce that I’ve been making on repeat for weeks, pouring on everything (salads, vegetables and soups alike) and dreaming of.  It really is the ultimate green dream sauce.  When combined with the bygotto, it ripples through the grain, creating an amazing contrast of flavours and an bringing an extra notch of creaminess. Dairy who?  You can also play around with the sauce depending on what herbs you have on hand and what flavours you’re after.  I used coriander and mint here, but you could easily swap in parsley, basil or any other favourite.

Asparagus Bygotto with a Green Dream Sauce

Asparagus Bygotto
(serves 4)
1 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil, separated
2 leeks, chopped
2 cups pearl barley
1 can coconut milk
½ tbsp. stock
14-15 asparagus stems, chopped about 1 inch long
Sea salt to taste

Green Dream Sauce
3 tbsp. tahini
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. maple syrup
4-5 tbsp. water
1 cup cilantro, washed and stemmed
¼ tsp. salt, optional

To make the bygotto, sautée the leeks in 1 tbsp coconut oil for 3-4 minutes. Add in the pearl barley and stir to combine. Add in the can of coconut milk, along with 4 cups water and the stock. After around 20 minutes, throw in half of the chopped asparagus stems and cook for an additional 10 minutes (adjust depending on the cooking instructions of your barley). When the bygotto is fully cooked, taste for salt, and let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Sautée the rest of the asparagus with the remaining 1/2 tbsp. of coconut oil and a pinch of sea salt until tender (4-5 minutes).

While the bygotto cooks, make the sauce. Combine the tahini, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and water in a blender and mix for about 30 seconds, until combined. Add in the cilantro, and mix on high until it is all fully combined and creamy. Depending on what tahini you’re using, you might need to add a couple extra tablespoons of water to achieve the right consistency. Taste for salt, and when the bygotto is ready, pour about a tablespoon’s worth on top. Store the sauce in a jar, refrigerated for up to a 10 days. Quick note: the sauce thickens a little when stored so add in an extra tablespoon of water before serving!

Divide the bygotto between four dishes, sauce it up and add the sautéed asparagus.