Barley is a heart-healthy grain that works well as a stand-in for Arborio rice in risotto-style dishes. Here we've paired the nutty flavor of barley with the sweet crunch of fresh English peas for a light but satisfying side dish or main course. If you want a heartier meal, add chicken or shrimp to the risotto. If fresh peas aren't available, you can substitute frozen peas. Parmesan Stock is a pantry staple that turns those usually discarded cheese rinds into a delicious broth that's great to have on hand for soups, pastas, and risottos; try it in this recipe for added depth of flavor.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and leeks; cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften but don’t brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring continually, until it’s fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the barley and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains are hot to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to the start of a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the barley, stirring occasionally, until the grain is just tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.
Stir in the peas and add 1/2 cup of water if the barley is dry. Cook, stirring frequently, until the barley and peas are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the tarragon, parsley, and lemon zest, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot, garnished with parmesan cheese, if you like.