Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mushroom Barley Soup

I love soup  because it's so easy to make, doesn't really need fussing, measuring or gussying up - in other words, just the opposite of baking.  Especially when I've put all of my energy into making dessert and making it pretty, soup is just so easy!  And nothing is better on a cold winter evening, than a nice bowl of hearty soup.  My Dad, who loved to eat, didn't start cooking until later in life, after he and my mother both retired.  He, too was a great lover of soup.  This recipe is basically his with just a few minor changes and a fleshing out of the techniques.  He used equal portions of dried and fresh mushrooms, but I don't usually keep dried mushrooms around, and they can be hard to find.  I find that the cremini mushrooms are so tasty that the dried ones are not needed.  If you do decide to use some dried mushrooms, soak them in hot water, drain them reserving the liquid and then strain the liquid into the soup

Serves 6

1 tablespoon mild oil, divided
3/4 cup cremini mushrooms, washed, dried and chopped
1/4 Vidalia onion, skin removed, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
4 cups low-sodium beef stock
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 cup non-fat half & half
salt and pepper to taste

Add the 2 teaspoons oil to a large stockpot.  Heat on high, and when the oil is hot, add the mushrooms, and saute until brown.

Reduce the heat, add the remaining oil, onions, celery and carrots, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown.  Add the stock and the barley.  Cover the pot and simmer for 1-1/2 hours.

You can leave the soup as it is, but I like to puree a few ladlefuls , which makes the texture more pleasant to me, and also thickens the soup.  I use a slotted spoon to transfer about a cup or two of veggies and barley to the processor, and then I process it until it is not quite smooth.  After it is ground up pretty well, you can add a little of the broth to help get it pureed.  Once it has the texture you like, scrape it back into the soup.  Stir in the half & half, bring back to a simmer, and serve.  Soup almost always thickens overnight.  If you want it more liquidy when you reheat it, add more half & half or puree some more of the veggies.

No comments: