Tasting Jerusalem: Barley Risotto w/ Marinated Feta

jerusalem barley risotto |dailywaffle

Look at your cookbook shelves. How many of those books do you cook from and how many do you just skim now and again? There’s no crime in cookbook as lookbook, but I have to believe most authors are hoping you’ll actually make the recipes. With Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem, the photos are gorgeous. It would be easy to let it just be a lookbook. But you’d be missing out. To get us cooking, not just looking, Beth of omgyummy and her friend Sarene have created a virtual cooking community centered around Jerusalem, where we’ll be cooking from the book, sharing our results and talking ingredients. Ahead of official kick-off, on Sunday I made the Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta.

jerusalem barley risotto|dailywaffle

But for the smoked paprika, this could have been a tomatoey Italian barley dish. It’s a good reminder that at least for a first run through, get the ingredients called for in the recipe. Don’t cut corners and use sweet paprika because you already had it in the cupboard. As my mom used to say, “Do it right the first time.” And then after that, do whatever the hell you want. (Ok, she didn’t say that part…or maybe she did).

I got the barley going just as the Seahawks game was getting started so every 15 minutes I was running back into the kitchen to give the pot a stir. Toward the end, you’ll want to be close to the stove to ensure things don’t start sticking and burning. I did go the full 45 minutes, but the last 15 was really touch and go as the barley finished absorbing the tomato mixture. At 30-35 I would have had a little more soupiness. Next time.

I’d forgotten the caraway seeds (so much for “do it right the first time”!), so the first night we simply had the risotto topped with plain feta alongside some improvised beef and pork kofte with a side of roasted cauliflower.  Later I picked up the caraway seeds, toasted them and let them sit in the olive oil for a bit and then drizzled it over the feta before serving. In the end, the caraway didn’t make a huge difference flavor-wise, but it made for a prettier presentation.

If you’re interested in joining in or just following along, full details on Tasting Jerusalem and how it’ll work are available at You can also follow #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, and like the Tasting Jerusalem Facebook page.

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  • yumivore
    January 16, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Beautiful pictures, I’ve been eyeing this in the book as well and your post makes me want to pull it to the top of my list! I’ve enjoyed a similar dish with Israeli couscous, but have to give this barley version a try.

    • Michelle
      January 16, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Thanks! Definitely do try it. I know it says it’s a vegetarian main, but really I saw it as a side…so you’re getting more like 6 servings out of that one cup of barley. I do love that so many of these recipes are in line w/ the more veg/more whole grain thing!

  • Hannah
    January 16, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Hi! I’ve had my eye on this barley risotto from Jerusalem and your photo looks delicious. I’m looking forward to cooking with the Tasting Jerusalem group – this should be a fun adventure! I’m off to get sumac now. 🙂

    • Michelle
      January 16, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Hi Hannah – Thanks! Glad you’re joining in! I think this’ll be a fun project…so often we’re all broadcasting rather than having a conversation. Have you tried anything else in the book yet?

      • Hannah
        January 16, 2013 at 9:44 am

        You’re so right, having a conversation and learning from each other will enhance this experience greatly. A friend and I cooked together one night and made the fattoush salad, salmon in chraimeh sauce (amazing sauce!) and chermoula eggplant (I would add feta to the stuffing). All so good! We had a blast and loved every bite (and totally forgot to take photos).

        • Beth (OMG! Yummy)
          January 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

          Forgetting to take photos – love that! As much as I enjoy documenting to help me share and also aid my aging memory, it is usually the moments of total immersion in our companions and the food that are the very, very best!

  • Beth (OMG! Yummy)
    January 16, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Michelle – I love this post and am so happy you want to cook along with us. I resonated with everything you said – about using the book, about sticking to the recipe the first time, and about the barley going from soupy to risotto. I posted recently about a traditional barley soup that I called barley risotto cuz it did exactly the same thing at the 35 – 40 minute mark. But it was kind of yummy that way. Thanks for a great kick-off post!

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