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Lemon Barley “Risotto” with Shrimp, Bacon & Spinach

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Serves 4

Early spring is the perfect time to say goodbye to slow-cooked, rich dishes in favor of lighter, brighter, quicker meals. In this dish, quick-cooking barley makes a tasty "risotto" without all the extra stirring and the combination of the barley, shrimp, bacon, and spinach is satisfying without feeling too heavy.

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 lb. large shrimp(21-25 count), peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots or onions
  • 1-1/3 cups quick-cooking barley
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 lb. (4 cups loosely packed) baby spinach, washed and spun dry
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 3 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crisp. Remove from the skillet, drain on paper towels, and crumble into small pieces.

Increase the heat to medium high. Sprinkle the shrimp with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds pepper. Working in two batches to avoid crowding, cook the shrimp in the bacon fat until lightly browned and opaque, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

Add the shallots or onions to the skillet and cook until they start to soften, about 1 minute. Add the barley and stir until coated with the bacon fat, about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until the barley is tender, 12 minutes. Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, 1 minute. Stir in the bacon, shrimp, Pecorino, and lemon zest and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with a simple mixed green salad or start the meal off with Romaine Hearts with Lemon Vinaigrette & Shaved Parmesan.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on four servings; Calories (kcal): 440; Fat (g): fat g 11; Fat Calories (kcal): 100; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 4; Protein (g): protein g 35; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 50; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1340; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 190; Fiber (g): fiber g 7;

Photo: Scott Phillips

My husband, and I really liked this. I made it per the recipe. I, too, had trouble finding quick-cooking barley, but eventually found it at Whole Foods. Since I made a full recipe for two people, we had the leftovers another night. For that, I removed the shrimp, (in order not to over cook it), adding it back in at the end. The heat from the other ingredients heated the shrimp nicely. The main drawback to reheating this is that the bacon is no longer crispy. Even so, the dish still tasted good.

Delicious, fast and easy with ingredients readily at hand. Substituted rice (I used Uncle Ben's converted rice) for barley, and used directions on the box for amount of rice and chicken broth to make 4 servings. Other than that, I followed the recipe's direction. Lemon zest topped off the flavors perfectly.

A perfect spring time dish! The barley and bacon made it taste hearty, and the lemon and shrimp balanced it out well. I used shallots and followed the recipe as-is. And pretty quick, once you get the bacon cooked.

The four stars is only because I couldn't fine the correct barley or Pecorino at two different stores. I used Jarlsberg and Parmesan and medium barely. Love this recipe and so did my guests. I also added corn and thyme. I will make it again over the summer with different veggies and broth bases. Thanks Fine Cooking for another great recipe!!

I read the reviews and omitted the added salted and increased the spinach. Wonderful!! flavorful and pretty to look at. Served it with the suggested salad- romaine hearts with lemon vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan. Great dinner!!

Made this an hour ago and all I can say is...why call for so much salt? I left all of it out and it certainly didn't need it. Otherwise it was very good. With bacon, shrimp and cheese the sodium level is very high. Beware, those who want lower blood pressure! There could have been more spinach called for, mine was picked fresh from the garden and was wonderful.

Made this tonight and followed the recipe pretty much to the letter. The only changes were I used only four slices of bacon so I needed to add a bit of olive oil with the onions, and I used regular barley (not quick cook), which required a bit more broth and about 25 minutes of cooking. The finished dish was absolutely delicious and a HUGE hit with my family. I'll be making this one again soon.

I had shrimp,spinach, and a little bit of bacon that needed to be utilized, and some leftover brown rice from the night before. This recipe inspired me to combine them, and the results were fabulous! I'm bookmarking this one... next time I'll make it with barley, and I'm sure it will be even better!

This is amazing!!! So very easy if you take it in stages. Tonight I fried the bacon, sauteed the shallots and very quickly fried the shrimp-just barely turning them red. I had cooked the barley earlier in the day as I only had pearl barley which needed 2 hours of simmering. After setting the bacon and shrimp aside I added the cooked barley to cook awhile in the chicken broth. I then stopped cooking and had a couple of glasses of good wine. When we were ready to eat, I put it all together and added the raw spinach and parmesan cheese. Three minutes later we had one of the most wonderful dinners we have had for a long time. We will make this again many times.

This was good - satisfying. I also took the leftovers (about 1/2 c. of barley and four-five shrimp) and pureed them with cream cheese in the food processor, added a bit of lemon juice and voila- instant sandwich/cracker spread. :)

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