Monday, December 24, 2007

Fungus in my Belly

When the weather turns cold and the days are short my soul turns to comforting foods. Now mind you, the days are much shorter in the winter and the temps are mostly sub-zero where I grew up but I still have the yearning for a good hearty bowl of soup or stew to get me through.

Recently, the temps in Colorado took a little nose drive and I was compelled to whip up a really good soup. I turned to my trusty Frog Commissary Cookbook for inspiration. Right there staring me in the face was Mushroom Barley Soup.

I had already planned a trip to Whole Foods because it was grocery day. Being that it is Whole Foods my potential time suck was also the Whole Day. I knew I had pearled barley on hand so set that soaking so the final cooking time would be substantially less. With my grains happily swimming in broth I took off for Whole Foods.

I have a love/hate relationship with this place. The foods, the colors, the organization … Huzzah! The people, the crowds, the parking lot … Blech. Luckily, I left early in enough in the morning that the place wasn’t a teaming mass of humanity. Instead it was a calm nirvana that grocery shopping should be. I only had to compete with one other person for the mushrooms. He was interested in the porcinis and shitakes. I, on the other hand, was in search of one of my favorites, the lion’s head mushroom. I must have prayed to the right fungus god that day as I bagged a beautiful example of the species. Alas, I forgot to photograph it in my haste to devour it. The lion’s head in addition to a bunch of brown mushrooms comprised the fungusy portion of my soup.

Once home the soup cooked up like a dream. Quick, easy, and so tasty. A big hunk of bread also procured at the Whole Foods, a nice neat salad, a glass of Burgandy and lunch was served.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Makes about 3.5 quarts

3 T butter
1½ c chopped onions
1 c chopped carrots
2 tsp minced garlic
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
3 quarts broth … I used chicken and beef as it was in the fridge
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme … I used herbes de Provence
1 c pearled barley

Melt butter in a large stockpot. Add onions, carrots and garlic and sauté until tender but not brown. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until barley is tender, about 40 minutes. This soup reheats really well so you can have it for lunch at work the next day.

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