Barley & Shrimp Risotto

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - 
I have regressed back to Spring. You see, I made risotto for dinner.  Not saying risotto is a Spring dish by any means, but ingredients can definitely define the season.  I'm all about eating within the season, but this dinner was a Spring accident.  Delicious, but an accident.  All because of what I had on hand (or maybe I was thinking Spring because of the gorgeous flowers we had on the table, compliments of the wedding we were at this past weekend.)

I knew I had some shrimp on hand that we ended up not boilingin beer for our BrewMile, so I thought I would add that to the mix.  Grabbed a lemon for some brightness and the bottle of pinot grigio that we just bought.  This would all work out just fine. 

But this seemed awfully Spring like to me, especially after I added peas to the mix (note, they were frozen, but alas.)  Then, I saw we didn't have much rice left (maybe from the mushroom risotto I had previously made?) which meant that this risotto idea may be delayed.  I pushed the bag aside and saw quick cooking barley.

Autumn redemption.

I remembered reading somewhere that pearl barley was a great rice substitute.  But, I had quick cooking pearl barley.  Only a slight difference from the regular pearl barley, right?  I shrugged my shoulders and thought, "why not?" and put on my I'mdeterminedtomakerisotto face.  Let's do this barley.

I sauteed up an onion with garlic until fragrant and translucent.  I added the barley and crossed my fingers.  I was looking for it to toast up, soak up all that oil from sauteeing.  Well, it soaked up the oil, but I got a little impatient waiting for it to toast.  So, I turned to the bottle.  Not in an alcoholic sense, though I did pour myself a glass.  I added about 1/2 a cup to the pan so the barley could take it all in.

All while this was happening, I had some chicken broth simmering away.  I began adding that to the pan, one cup at a time, until the barley took it all in.  Then, I added more broth and stirred the pot some more.  A few rounds of this until I had a creamy barley mix.  I added the shrimp and maybe 1/2 a cup of peas (if you remember, I don't like peas, but I find that I keep trying anyway).  Once the shrimp was pink, I threw in a handful of Parmesan and finished it off with a squeeze of lemon and lemon zest.

Though I made way too much, the risotto was delish, light and refreshing. Perfect for this random 80 degree October day we are having here in Indy.  I enjoyed the twist of citrus at the end, it worked well with the shrimp and peas that were part of the dish.  And I was really happy with how creamy the barley became - barley truly is a great risotto substitute!

I love risotto.  It is so easy to transform by adding things here and there.  Are you a risotto lover?  What are your favorite ingredients to add into the rice (or barley) dish?