I watched the presidential debate on Wednesday with a bowl of risotto in my lap, a Republican on my right, and a Democrat on my left.  Ready to have my mostly-made-up mind blown by the opposing side, fully expecting that The.Boy. and my roommate’s boyfriend would be at each others’ throats momentarily, with political propaganda spewing forth from their mouths (and hopefully not their fists, seeing as how I was sitting between them, directly in the line of fire).

I was excited for Jim Lehrer to ask intelligent, probing questions that would force the candidates to come clean about these vague and mercurial “plans” that they keep saying they have.

For them to really dig into each other in a totally unprofessional way.

For someone to mispronounce the word “nuclear”.

And instead all I got were obviously made up stories about potential voters they met along the campaign trail, who oh so fortuitously just happened to be from swing states, and who just happened to fit picture perfectly into the point that they were trying to make and the same old non-specific statements and lies that they’ve been propagating throughout the entire campaign season.

I hate to say it.  But I miss Joe the Plumber.


Which is why I am hereby announcing my candidacy in 2016.  For presidential debate moderator.

Someone needs to get to the bottom of who these candidates are and what they stand for.  And I think I’m just the girl to do it.

Therefore, I propose a new kind of debate.  One that abandons the usual questions of what their opinion is on health care, tax reform, the economy, blah blah blah.  If I wanted to know that I could find it on their campaign website.

No, no, no.  We need to get the real dirt on who these guys are. Their likes, dislikes, what makes them tick, which type of winter squash is their favorite, whether they’re more of a vanilla or chocolate kind of person.  You know…the important stuff.

To achieve this, I propose a more Real Housewives Reunion style of debate moderation.

Hair pulling absolutely must be involved.  Someone has to make derogatory comments about someone else’s children.

And sure, it may not give us even an inkling about who will make a better president.

But it will prevent us from face-planting into our bowl of risotto a mere forty-five minutes into the debate out of sheer boredom.  As delicious as that may be.


Barley Risotto with Butternut and Gruyere
Serves 4, adapted from Cooking Light January 2012


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup veggie broth
  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1 butternut squash, cubed and peeled
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated


  1. Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat.  Add oil to the pan and swirl to coat.
  2. Add the onion to the pan and saute for 5 minutes or until tender.  Add the barley and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in the veggie broth and cook until evaporated, stirring constantly.  Add 1 cup water.  Cook until absorbed, about 8 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the rest of the water, 1 cup at a time, stirring until each portion is absorbed before adding the next.  Stir in the remaining 1 cup water, squash, kale, sage, salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until squash is tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the cheese.  Serve immediately.

For more fall risotto recipes, check out these past recipes:
Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto
Barley Risotto with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Champagne Honey Mustard
Mexican Sweet Potato Risotto
Risotto with Carrots and Feta


You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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88 Responses to Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash and Gruyere

  1. Yes, I’m in full support of that debate, how do we make that happen?

    This looks amazing!

  2. Blond Duck says:

    I’d be happy to sit at that debate! 🙂

  3. I’d like to be a moderator, too! I love butternut squash season and your barley risotto looks splendid, especially with the addition of some kale.

  4. Danielle says:

    That is my kind of debate – lets make it happen!

  5. I love the butternut squash addition, adds such a beautiful color and nice nutty flavor against the barley. It looks wonderful

  6. Kim says:

    That damn debate put me to sleep. I don’t even see any point in it.

    This risotto, however, looks gorgeous. Love all that sage on top!

  7. Karis Ann says:

    Love your debate idea. Looking forward to trying this risotto…assuming I remember which Pinterest board I added it to when it comes time to make it 🙂

  8. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, I don’t know why they need a moderator at all!! Let them talk!
    I just love the this beautiful dish of risotto!
    Blessings dearest. Catherine xoxo

  9. daphne says:

    Joanne- be careful..they may start fighting over your risotto!!!

  10. Looks and sounds so delicious. And you’re right, the presidential debate was a disaster. Here’s hoping the next rounds are better because I can’t sit through another one like that.

  11. Beth says:

    I would love to face-plant into a dish that looks this good!

    I watched the debate too but, as a citizen of another country, I would never comment on it. Other than to say that I’d take Big Bird over Joe the Plumber, by a feather!

  12. Amy says:

    Now, THAT is a debate I would enjoy watching! I’ve often said that pie and cookies could solve world peace, so why not find out what the candidate’s favorite cookie is. It’s genius.

  13. Claudie says:

    Joanne, beautiful risotto! (And glad your survived the debate, sitting in the middle of that couch! 🙂 )

  14. Katie says:

    I agree that I was disappointed with the substance of the debate! I would tune in and watch that debate while eating a bowl of this risotto. That sounds like quite the enjoyable night.

  15. I am all for your idea! But I’d rather forgo the debate and just go for the risotto. I’d rather see Michele and Ann debate.

  16. Marcia says:

    Barley, squash, kale and cheese?? Yes please.

    The only bummer is that you can’t make barley in a pressure cooker, which is my method of choice for risotto. I’m not sure I actually have the time to cook the “real” type anymore with two kids.

    I didn’t watch the debate. So sue me. I was out with my girlfriends.

  17. kelsey says:

    This looks divine. I just bought a huge box of quinoa and this looks perfect for it!

  18. Megan says:

    These looks really, really good. I’ve never loved “rice” risotto, but I imagine I would really enjoy it with barley. Love the flavors in here too.

  19. Squash, barely and kale in one dish…could it get any better?! What a perfect fall recipe!

  20. presidential debates are always boring, totally agree. They r missing the real important things in life. Like your gorgeous colorful risotto for example!

  21. bellini says:

    I am loving the use of barley instead of rice in one of my favourite comfort foods.

  22. lil deli says:

    oooh! I’m down with a cold and THIS is what I want to eat! We don’t get butternut here really but there is always pumpkin, right?

  23. I’m such a huge risotto fan but I have never made it with anything but arborio. That needs to change now. Love the butternut/gruyere combo!

  24. Jenna says:

    I’d happily eat this risotto while watching you conduct a kick-butt interview with those two. Yes indeedy.

  25. I vote for you as debate moderator! There. It’s settled…now hand over that risotto!

  26. Joanne you have my vote. This post cracked me up. The thought of a RH reunion style with live tweeting (of course) would be hysterical!

  27. Kalyn Denny says:

    You are so funny, and I hereby officially vote for you as debate moderator! (Love the recipe too.)

  28. I love Real Housewives reunions. And risotto of any kind!

  29. Oh yes I most definitely vote you debate moderator. I could care less if Obama will ensure that I have a job in 3 years or if Romney can ensure that I will be able to pay for a bike accident… the real question is, if they invite us to dinner, will they or won’t they be serving gluten, dairy and meat free?!

  30. london bakes says:

    We had debates at the first election for the first time; I sorta see the point but I’d like to see a bit more excitement so you’ve got a job over here too!

  31. Erica says:

    I would love to see you as a moderator!What a wonderful dish..It looks creamy and delicious!

  32. Hotly Spiced says:

    Good on you for tuning in. Barley went out of fashion for a long time. I never saw it anywhere. But it’s made a big comeback as this winter I seemed to be cooking with it all the time. I even made a barley risotto. And yours looks so yummy xx

  33. marie says:

    This is the perfect winter meal, looks heavenly. I would like to know the candidates favorite squash. Also which is their favorite nut butter and if they’re down with lentils.

  34. Guru Uru says:

    Debate moderator you forever my friend, you have a perfect head attached to you 😀
    LOVE this risotto it looks superb and the flavours rock 😀


  35. Jenn Kendall says:

    i totally support your candidacy for debate moderator! and oh my gosh this risotto looks fabulous! i love the combination of butternut squash and gruyere, awesome job!

  36. Lynn says:

    I think you would be an awesome moderator and would get them to sit down with you to a good meal and a healthy chat.

  37. Cathleen says:

    All I’ve got to say is that I can’t imagine how after 45 minutes this risotto wasn’t completely gobbled up :p This looks perfect!

  38. Debbie says:

    Well you’ve got my vote… long as you make me a plate of that risotto!!! Delish!

  39. Oh my, this looks amazing. Love the fall flavors and the fact that you used barley! Oh, and I totally nominate you for…anything! 🙂

  40. Donna says:

    Please send me a lawn sign after you get them printed up. I’m voting for you no matter what you run for.

  41. I’m totally behind you as presidential moderator! And this dish – AMAZING! That gorgeous yellow color is just beautiful and I just want to shove my face in this!

  42. Eileen says:

    I just made a barley risotto too! Great minds clearly think alike. Although I didn’t try to eat anything but popcorn during the debate… 🙂

  43. I might actually watch a presidential debate if you were the moderator, dear Joanne. 🙂 If only to laugh my head off. 🙂 xo

  44. What a gorgeous dish! I made a similar risotto with barley and butternut squash before, it was so tasty. The gruyere sounds divine too.

  45. Oh man i’m the least political person ever. This post is as close as I got to the debate.

  46. Dining Alone says:

    I couldn’t watch the debate either, not that I really care what either of them has to say about anything at this point. I would much rather look at that risotto!!

  47. Jeanette says:

    You crack me up Joanne – I think I’d go for face-planting into your bowl of risotto over watching another debate!

  48. tigerfish says:

    So all of us are wishing for that microphone which will turn off automatically when each candidate’s time is up for each round. I did not have something so comforting as a dish when I was watching the debate. The unhealthy chips I was munching on have done the debate justice. :O

  49. face into risotto bowl out of boredom. lolssss! oh yummm! yes to that

  50. kellypea says:

    I say feed ’em some cheesy risotto. They’ll forget what their “handlers” tell them 🙂 Yummmmmm.

  51. I so agree with all your debate thoughts. Andy Cohen totally would have killed it.

    I’m in bed, but I wish I had a bowl of this with me!


  52. Deborah says:

    I’m totally all for a Real Housewives style debate. I’d actually enjoy watching that!! And this risotto looks AMAZING. I want a bowl. Or two.

  53. That Girl says:

    Hair pulling might be a challenge given the age and follicular stance of most of our candidates.

  54. Kari says:

    I adore barley and this looks gorgeous, even if you had frustrating debating to pair it with (we get some coverage of the US election lead up here, but not as much as you obviously, so I’ll take your word for it!).

  55. This dish look fabulous! Love the colors. Butternut squash, kale, and gruyere…does it get much better than that?!?!

  56. Johanna GGG says:

    The question I would like to see put to the candidates is “what is lacinato kale?” if they could answer that I would be impressed – wait – that is why you should be a candidate (and can we have geeky home knit jumpers worn at the debate rather than boring suits)

  57. This is my kind of comforting and healthy dish. Looks absolutely appetizing!

  58. Tandy says:

    I would love vote for you! Every time I see a recipe for barley risotto I vow to make it, hopefully soon 🙂

  59. Kevin says:

    Squash and pumpkin work so well in risottos like this and I really like the use of the barley and the kale in this one!

  60. Big Dude says:

    “Someone needs to get to the bottom of who these candidates are and what they stand for.” Good luck Joanne. These folks spend a lifetime learning to be able to say lots of words without actually answering the question.

  61. cquek says:

    OH MY LAWDD!, i love to try them

  62. Monet says:

    I agree…the debates were a huge disappointment. But what doesn’t disappoint? Your blog! Thank you for sharing! I’m eating breakfast…but I’m already hungry for dinner! I hope you have a great Tuesday!

  63. Pam says:

    The debates were terrible this year. Your idea is a GREAT one for 2016!

    The risotto looks amazingly delicious.

  64. I love a good barley risotto and with squash…even better. Joe the plumber…makes me think of that song by billy bragg or is it wilco, Carpenter For President. Have you heard it? It’s good stuff.

  65. teresa says:

    please make this happen! i would watch that one over and over, especially if i had this amazing risotto to keep me company.

  66. Chris says:

    Alexis tried to buy a butternut squash last week but I wouldn’t let her. I told her it was too early, not winter enough for me 😉

  67. Gloria says:

    Oh Joanne love like this look beautiful!

  68. Lora says:

    I am at work. My toes are cold because I chose to wear weather inappropriate ballerina flats today (but they have rhinestones on the toes!) and I would like nothing more than to dig into a bowl of this delicious flavorful risotto. Yum.

  69. Haha, it sounds like you would make a great moderator! Also, I’ve been dying to make butternut squash risotto. This barley version looks incredible!

  70. What a brave person you are to watch the debates in between opposite views!

    Delicious risotto. You know I love butternut squash too so I’d love to try this. The addition of the kale is wonderful.

  71. Reeni Pisano says:

    You lasted longer than me at watching the debate! It was a snooze fest. I wish I had a bowl of your lovely risotto! I like butternut and Gruyere together.

  72. Claudia says:

    Time to get women moderating the debates. Go for it. Maybe ask a question NOT about the economy – which they have little control over as President. And yes, you lasted longer than me. Pass the risotto. Just remembering the debate makes me hungry for some autumn comfort.

  73. Oh I was so disappointed with the moderator (Had high hopes too). But what can you do? It is what it is. Would totally nominate you for presidential debate moderator, by the way.

    Love this risotto. So rich and flavorful!

  74. Love fall risottos like this! I watched the debate for a bit because the only other thing on was Canada’s version of the Bachelor and it was so bad, but I ended up turning back in to it because at least it was bad in the funny way, not bad in the faceplanting in your risotto way (not that that’s too bad either!)

  75. This looks so creamy and pretty wonderful. I hung in for about 20 minutes of debate and gave up so I admire your spirit. 😉

  76. Cara says:

    Ok, so I’m not the only one who was falling asleep during that thing?! (Granted I DVR’d and watched at around 10:30 because I had a commitment earlier.) I would absolutely tune in to your debate – with a bowl of this risotto in your honor!

  77. Shannon says:

    i’ll take this risotto over a presidential debate anyday 😉 and i’ll vote for you for moderator!!

  78. Barley risotto is SO good and SO hearty. Love what you’ve done here with the creamy squash!

  79. sandra says:

    I missed the yawn of a presidential debate (I did hear about it) so I made sure to see the vice-presidential debate and was not disappointed. I hope you managed to see it and were equally entertained.

  80. Laura says:

    This made me laugh. I won’t lie, I rarely watch, and did not watch this time. I find it very hard to care (not about our country’s future, but about getting all rah rah behind one guy or the other). But this risotto, now that I would care about!

  81. Hannah says:

    As often seems to happen, this is exactly what I’ve been craving. Risotto has been on my mind lately and I just broke down a sizable sugar pumpkin without a clear idea of how I wanted to cook it… A few quick subs, and this recipe will be the winner.

  82. Candace says:

    You’ve got my vote for sure! This looks amazing!

  83. Nancy Nolan says:

    Hi Joanne ~ Wanted you to know I made this dish for our first dinner after my daughter and son-in-law’s first baby boy was born (last week). We were all in heaven eating this meal which was so fitting for the bliss surrounding the event. Gabriel Christopher was born at home ~ a water birth with candlelight and music. The most gentle and sacred birth I’ve ever witnessed. Thank you for sharing your heart and wonderful food with the rest of us!

    Nancy, Rebecca, Brian and Gabriel!!

  84. Ashley says:

    This bowl of goodness is screeeeeaming my name. I’ll vote for IT on Election Day, for sure!

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