This Jewish version of mushroom barley soup is my idea of heaven.
When the temperature plummets and the winds pick up, I think of soup. No, actually I dream, obsess, and need soup. Although I love chicken soup, this soup is my all-time favorite for cold weather.
I started with a Joan Nathan recipe from Jewish Holiday Kitchen(an older version of Jewish Holiday Coobkbook), but took many liberties with it and ended up with an almost stew-like version that will warm the cockles of your heart and your frozen fingers and toes. I have no idea why mushroom barley soup is listed in Joan Nathan’s cookbook as a Purim recipe. For me, it cries out for a cold night, not a warmer one toward spring, when Purim tends to fall.
While this recipe requires lots of chopping, it doesn’t call for much in the way of culinary skills, except for the knife skills necessary to keep yourself safe, of course.
Besides its simplicity, I love mushroom barley soup because it doesn’t waste any part of the ingredients. In fact, it’s a great way to use up those pesky leaves in the inner part of celery stalks and if you have a few stray green beans or parsnips, add them too. Keep the vegetables chunky and use fresh dill and good quality canned tomatoes and you’ll be set. You can even use boxed vegetable broth to keep it really simple.
If you’ve never had barley before, you’re in for a treat. It is tastier than rice and provides wonderful texture and substance. It is also nutritious, with a good amount of fiber and protein. I’ll be featuring some additional ways to use barley in the upcoming months, so if you buy a box or bag for this recipe and have lots left over, just store the rest in an airtight container and we’ll get back to it soon. This recipe calls for pearled barley, which has the outer husk and bran layers of the grain removed. Hulled barley or barley groats, still has the bran layer and so it is more nutritious than the pearled type, but it also takes longer to cook.
Although the soup needs to simmer for about 2 hours, it does not require much tending. If you follow the rules for mise en place (remember my Meal Planning Rule #6?), the soup takes virtually no effort after you start the first of the 2-step cooking process.
Mushroom Barley Soup, a Jewish Version
This simple and hearty soup is a great way to warm up on a cold evening. Enjoy it with a hunk of good, sourdough bread and you've got a full meal.
- 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, with their juice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1-2 small onions, cut into half moons (about 1 cup)
- 2-3 stalks celery chopped, including the leaves of inner stalks
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 1/2 red, yellow or orange pepper, chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup pearled barley, rinsed
- 3 small carrots, cut into coins
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 8 ounces button (white) or baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
Empty the tomatoes into the pot. Roughly cut them with a spoon, so that you have chunks of tomato and the juice runs out. Add the vegetable broth, onion slices, chopped parsley, chopped bell pepper, and barley.
Bring the soup to a boil, cover the pot and let it simmer for approximately 90 minutes, stirring just a few times to make sure that the ingredients are all submerged in the liquid.
After 90 minutes, add the carrots, mushrooms, dill, salt and pepper. Continuing cooking the soup, covered, at a simmer for about another 10-15 minutes, until the carrots are just barely cooked through.
If you are making the soup ahead of time, the barley will expand to absorb most of the liquid. In order to keep the dish more soup-like, make the "base" without the barley and cook it for only about 45 minutes before cooling it down. When you are ready to serve the soup, re-heat it, add the barley and bring the soup back to a simmer, cooking it until the barley is soft enough to eat (probably 20-30 minutes) before adding the carrots, mushrooms, etc.
With great sourdough bread or a baguette, a hunk of delicious cheese, and a salad, this is the perfect winter lunch or dinner. For dessert, sticking with the peasant theme, I suggest a galette or other rustic cake or tart. Still, one can never go wrong with chocolate. I often freeze this soup in small containers for cold days when I don’t want to cook. It defrosts and reheats well.