Sunday, November 25, 2007

High-Quality-of-Life Double Mushroom Barley Soup

I often try to distinguish between standard of living and quality of life. Much of what defines high SOL doesn't really add much to your actual daily experience of life; conversely many simple pleasures are below the SOL radar screen (since that measures SPENDING) but add greatly to one's day. Winter soups are, in my book, quality of life enhancers of the first order. It's easy to make them vegetarian and since they use very inexpensive ingredients, they are both planet-friendly and pocket-friendly. Barley in particular has long fed the world's peasants with distinction.

Here's my favorite Double Mushroom Barley Soup. I use both dried mushrooms along with fresh, and it makes a rich, hearty, full-bodied soup. It's a meal in itself if you're inclined.

1 oz. pkg dried mushrooms (pictured)* -these are Porcini
1 T. olive oil
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1/2 lb carrots, sliced
4 ribs celery, chopped
3 T vegetable boullion powder (I like the Israeli versions, one pictured. While chicken "flavored", they are actually vegetarian.)
1 cup barley
8 cups water
Pepper, salt, tamari sauce if desired, to taste.
Parsley for garnish

Soak the dried mushrooms in water about 1/2 hour. In a large soup pot, saute the onion, fresh mushrooms, and celery. Microwave the carrots until soft, a minute or two. Slice in small chunks and run through the food processor until finely chopped. Add to the sauteing vegetables. Slice the soaked dried mushrooms into small pieces - they will be spongey. Add to the soup pot along with 8 c. water, 3 T. bullion, 1 c barley, salt and pepper. Since the boullion is high in sodium, I don't add much salt, but be generous with the pepper. Bring to a low boil, turn on lowest setting, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. The barley will thicken the soup. The dark mushrooms, carrot, and celery give the soup a nice color palate - mushroom/barley is fairly gray looking by itself.
This soup freezes well. It's a great gift or bring along.
* Dried mushrooms are often found in the ethnic aisle of the grocery store, in the Kosher section. They hail from eastern Europe, as do most American Jews, but this dish is not uniquely Jewish. It's just that most groceries no longer have a "Polish" or "Lithuanian" section

One of my most creative gifts ever was creating a cookbook of my favorite recipes for my son when he moved into his first post-college house. I wrote it by hand, with lots of anecdotes connected to the recipes. If I were doing it over now, I would take advantage of online sites to produce personalized cookbooks - at Tastebook you can edit your own recipes. A hard-cover recipe book of family recipes is a great gift. Probably there are sites where you can download your own pictures, which means you can show what stages and steps look like. Or just start your own recipe blog! Anyone out there with experience or recommendations on sites?

PS I have checked a few supermarkets and cannot find the dark dried mushrooms. I checked in with the distributer, Kirsch Mushrooms, and they don't know which stores their products wind up in. However, you can buy a pound from them directly for $42.80, shipping included. Just mail them a check to 751 Drake Street, Bronx, NY 10474.
The little containers are about $2.95 for 1/2 oz. so this is the equivalent of 32 individual containers! (And way cheaper if you don't mind a lifetime supply - 32 containers would be $94, + 32 plastic containers biting the dust.)


ZT said...

can you use the much less expensive shitake mushrooms that come in the big yellow/green bag at costco?

Betsy Teutsch said...

Since I have never used them, I was reluctant to buy such a large quantity to experiment with. Anyone out there have the answer?
I can't imagine they wouldn't be good in soup. They wouldn't do much for the color palate though....

leosatter said...

Maybe you can help me out with something…? I want to order all of my food online from now on because of various reasons, but I don’t know where to go for quality food. I have tried 2 companies so far, Fresh Dining, and and Celebrity Foods, but I wanna get others I can try out. Do you know of any? The main thing I’ve ordered so far is steak. I guess you can say, I’m a steak junkie. LOL!!! From what I have found out (from what I have ordered so far) I think I am able to regulate the quality of beef I buy. I hate going to a store and getting that crappy slab of beef that I have to cut down until there is like nothing left. Hahaha!!!! (its so true though) Anyhow, sorry that I made this comment so long. If you can help me out or point me in a direction where I might find more quality foods online, I would greatly appreciate it. Have a good day or night! (depending on when you read this) LOL!!!!

Anonymous said...

I found the same mushrooms she mentioned at Trader Joe's. I know they aren't everywhere, but it's a start....