Have you guys started your spring gardens yet? I just planted most of mine Sunday. This year Mr.S and I are being a bit more selective regarding what we stick in our dirt box. Last year we went all empire and planted tons of tomatoes and loads of peppers...they came in like gangbusters but we're not huge fans of either and ended up feeling overwhelmed. I made some of the tomatoes into sauce but ended up giving most of them away. This year we're doing ONE tomato plant (Roma), some Japanese eggplant, two different kinds of beets, chard, purple tomatillos, Parisian carrots, leeks and garlic. I'll probably add another veggie or two once this week of rain is over. And of course, we'll have a herb garden again- rosemary, thyme, oregano, dill, mint and a few different kinds of basil. I go through fresh herbs like crazy in the summer.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying this belated rainy weather. It's the perfect opportunity to eat some hearty soups, like this rich Mushroom-Barley Soup that I made for a recent soup swap:

Mushroom-Barley Soup
(adapted from Saveur's Mushroom Barley Soup, Sept 2012)
1 oz. dried assorted mushrooms (I used porcinis, shiitakes, morels and oyster mushrooms)
1/4 cup olive oil
8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
a handful of sliced greens like chard or beet greens (optional)
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry
8 cups beef broth
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 Parmesan rind
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed
2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
(Note: Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian- Worcestershire sauce has anchovy in it.)
1. Placed dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Let it sit, covered with a plate for about a half hour. Then using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms. Pour the liquid through a fine strainer into another bowl, leaving the last tidbit with the sediment in the bowl. Set the strained liquid aside.
2. Finely chop the rehydrated mushrooms and set the aside.
3. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add your garlic, carrots, celery and onion. SautĂ© for about 5 minutes. (You can throw in some greens at this point if you wish.) Add the chopped rehydrated mushrooms and sliced crimini mushrooms - cook, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes.
4. Add sherry and cook until it evaporates (about 2 minutes). Mix in your reserved mushroom liquid, beef stock, pearl barley, Parmesan rind, thyme, ground celery seed, Maggi seasoning and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender. About 30-40 minutes. Remove Parmesan rind remains (it's edible so don't toss it), add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
5. This soup freezes well.

2 Responses
  1. Bill Bird Says:

    This looks delicious. Did you know that Raley's stopped selling Pearl Barley? Oh -- one more thing -- do NOT plant mint in a shared herb garden. Because you will have nothing but mint in a year. And then mint will spread all over your backyard -- into the neighbor's yard and into your house. It's invasive like that.

  2. Ally Says:

    Thanks for the tip, Bill ! I had no idea that mint would spread that quickly. We didn't plant any last year. I'll definitely make sure that I put it in a separate pot.

    Do you happen to know why Raley's stopped selling pearl barley?
    I bought a few bags awhile ago online from Bob's Red Mill. In a pinch I use the quick cooking stuff from Trader Joe's.

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