Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mushroom-Barley Soup

Guys, sometimes I get cravings.  (And I don't understand why the word "craving" for women in my age bracket automatically implies pregnancy.  I'm pretty sure non-pregnant women - and men! - also have intense desires for certain foods.  But "craving" is so much easier to say, so lets drop it for now.)  The other day I decided I wanted, nay craved, beef and barley soup.

For the record, I can't say that I've ever eaten beef and barley soup, but the cold days and continually overcast weather - I've dubbed it "graylight" - left me craving ultimate comfort, and it seemed like beef and barley soup would fit the bill.  But then I decided I wanted something a bit lighter, so I doubled-up on some cremini mushrooms and skipped the beef.  I had carrots and leeks on hand to round out the flavor, and a few dried porcini from another recipe.

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever cooked with barley, and I'm a total convert.  These nutty, chewy little grains will be making a proud appearance in my next chicken soup, not to mention in my lunchtime salads.

This could easily be made vegetarian/vegan by swapping the beef stock for mushroom or vegetable broth, and the butter for olive oil.  But I love butter with mushrooms, so that was a must for me.  Also, I use a shot of low-sodium tamari to help boost the umami-ness of the mushrooms.  It might sound weird, but I use it in a lot of things in place of salt.  It won't make your food end up tasting like a stir-fry, I promise, and it helps to invest in a good, traditionally brewed tamari (I use San-J).

Enjoy this recipe - hopefully it bring much needed warmth to your winter!

Mushroom-Barley Soup
Click here for a printable recipe
Serves 4 as a main dish

1 T. butter
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1 c. boiling water
1 small leek, white and light green parts quartered and diced
1 large carrot, cut at a medium dice
1/2 c. pearled barley
6 c. beef stock (or sub vegetable/mushroom broth)
1 T. low sodium tamari
1 bay leaf
Salt & Pepper, to taste

In a large sauce pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Once foaming, add cremini mushrooms and a small pinch of salt.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have wilted and picked up a golden brown color, 8-10 minutes.

Add leek to the pot and saute for 2-3 minutes, until just beginning to soften.  Meanwhile, remove the porcini mushrooms from their soaking liquid, reserving the liquid.  Finely chop the porcini and add them to the sauce pot; then add the reserved soaking liquid, stock/broth, tamari, and the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the pearled barley and diced carrot.  Cook until the carrot is tender and barley is al dente, 30 - 35 minutes.  Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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