During these winter months, I have soup for dinner almost every night: either as a starter or as the main meal. For me, soup is like medicine and always makes me feel satisfied and cared for; like being in grandmother’s kitchen as a child. The warmth of the spices, and medley of veggies and grains suspended in hot, savory broth permeates our being and calms our souls.
Out here on the North Fork, we are lucky to have so many farms where produce is available year round. From root vegetables to mushrooms, we have it all. One of my favorite stops is the East End Mushroom Co., where you can pick up anything from Shiitake to Oyster mushrooms, Maitake or Cremini; available in fresh and in dried form for the best mushroom and barley soup. If you are vegetarian, I suggest using both fresh and dried for a richer broth, and if you have any leftover beef or beef bones from your weekend dinner, you can lend a little meat flavor for the family member who is less keen about Meatless Monday dinners.
Barley or Hordeum Valgar, originated in Egypt and was one of the earliest grains cultivated for domestic use around 8,000 BC.
2 tablespoons of EVOO
2 cups of raw mushrooms
1/4 cup of dried mushrooms, hydrated in 1/4 cup of water
1 large shallot or small onion
1 cup of chopped carrots
1/2 cup of chopped celery
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon of crumbled, dried sage leaves
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 cup of barley or Farro
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 teaspoon of celery salt
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper
Reminder: If you are using beef, its best to use a few steak bones from leftovers along with a half cup of cubed meat, cooked or raw. If you are not using meat, you will need to use dried mushrooms to deepen the color and flavor of the soup.
Add 3 cups of water in soup pot along with 1 cup of barley or farro and bay leave. Boil for at least one hour (with or with beef/beef bones)
Saute the shallot in pan with EVOO and add fresh, sliced mushrooms once the onions are lightly caramelized and scoop out the mushrooms and place in bowl to use later.
In the same pan, saute the carrot and celery in two tablespoons of EVOO until slightly browned.
Then add the tomato paste and mushrooms mixture back into the pan and mix. Empty these ingredients into the boiling pot of barley and stir.
Add remainder of spices, except for the salt and celery salt along with the re-hydrated mushrooms with their liquid, and boil the soup covered until the barley is soft and the soup begins to thicken from the starch in the barley.
Once the liquid has reduced, add the salt and celery salt a little at a time and taste for seasoning. Add additional salt if needed.
Garnish with more herbs and serve with a side of sauteed winter greens like Swiss chard and make a beautiful cheese plate to accompany some whole grain bread or crackers.
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