Sunday, March 27, 2011

Barley-Mushroom Soup with Caramelized Onions

I love soup -- especially when the weather is cold. Give me a steaming bowl of soup and a piece of crusty bread. That's all I need to make me feel warm and full and happy. Since Spring has been such an enormous tease this year, I've had a couple extra frosty nights to enjoy my favorite soups.

Last week, I made a terrific (if I do say so) pot of soup. My recipe is a modified version of a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. This is because I had some rag-tag ends in the fridge that I wanted to use up.

This soup uses barley, which makes it very hearty and satisfying. I also used cremini mushrooms (i.e., baby bellas). You could use something else, but I'd suggest something with a strong earthy flavor.

This recipe calls for caramelized onions, which takes quite a while. I suppose the soup would still be good even if you didn't, but the flavor is so much sweeter and richer if you do.

Finally, this recipe calls for some grated pecorino. I had pecorino on hand, but if you don't, I think parmesan or manchego might work. I think you'd want to look for a hard, salty cheese.

Make it Vegan: You could leave the cheese out, and then your soup would be vegan. I tried this for myself, and it was still really, really good.


Barley-Mushroom Soup with Caramelized Onions

1/4 cup olive oil (approx)
3 onions, diced (small)
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
3/4 - 1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)
8 - 10 oz chopped cremini mushrooms
2-3 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 Qts vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated pecorino (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions. Cover and cook over low heat about 40-50 minutes. Raise the heat to medium. Remove cover and cook until onions are caramelized -- about 10 minutes. You'll want to stir frequently so they don't burn.

When the onions are done, add the rosemary, barley, and vegetables. Stir it up. Add the stock and bring it to a boil. Partially cover the pot. Lower the heat and simmer until the barley and vegetables are tender. About 25 minutes.

Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. (However, if you are going to use cheese, remember that the cheese will add some saltiness, too, so you might want to undersalt a tad.) If desired, serve with grated cheese on top.


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