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Like Candy and Dennis, I live in San Diego. And I’m cold. All of you on the East Coast and Midwest may laugh but thin-skinned San Diegans have been living in temperatures in the 50s with winds and rain. We’re shivering, actually wearing jackets and rain boots, turning up the heat in the furnace.

And eating a lot of soup.

I’m sure each of you has your favorite for the winter months. I know I have a bunch–hot and sour, roasted tomato, lentil, and, of course, chicken soup come immediately to mind. But one that truly warms me is this Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens. It’s hearty and thick, thanks to the barley and beef. And the umami flavor that comes from the mushrooms (my favorite to use are dense shitakes) gives it a rich, earthy mouth feel.

Shitake mushrooms, barley, garlic

Plus, like most soups, once you wrangle the ingredients, it’s so simple to make–and then freeze in individual containers for weeks to come.

A note about the barley. While pearled barley is the most common you’ll find, try to find hulled barley. This is the whole grain version of the grain. Both are chewy. Both are healthy. But compared with pearled barley, where the outer husk and bran layers are removed, hulled barley only has the outermost layer removed, which makes it even more nutritious. Remember, also that with the additional layers removed, pearl barley takes less time to cook than hulled barley.

Barley2

Can you change this up to suit your clients’ or your own preferences? Of course! If you have vegetarian or vegan clients, eliminate the meat and use vegetable stock and more mushrooms. For those who don’t eat beef, substitute with chicken and chicken stock. Use multiple varieties of mushrooms and multiple types of greens. Add root vegetables and winter squash. Consider this a template and make it your own.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound of boneless beef short ribs, cut into cubes
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, grated
3/4 cup of barley, preferably hulled
1 quart of beef stock (if using meat, otherwise you can use chicken or vegetable stock)
A couple of splashes of good dry sherry
Salt
Pepper
3 cups or so of Swiss chard or kale

Directions

Use a large stock pot. If you’re including the beef, heat the pot, add enough oil to cover the bottom, let that heat for a minute till it shimmers and then add the beef. Let it brown on all sides and then remove and set aside.

Add a splash more olive oil and then add the onions and garlic. Sauté on low heat until the onion turns translucent and just a little golden.

Then start adding everything else: the mushrooms and carrots, then the beef, then the pearl barley. Then add the liquid. If that’s not enough to cover the contents, add a little water, then a splash or so of sherry to up the flavor. Finally add some salt and pepper to taste.

Mushroom Barley soup

Mix it well. Then bring it all to a strong simmer and skim the fat. After that, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Let it cook for a couple of hours and toward the end of the cooking time, add the greens. Adjust the amounts if it doesn’t look right to you. Add other ingredients you might like. Cook until they’re wilted and serve.

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

What’s your favorite winter soup to make for yourself or clients? 

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