The saying is supposed to be “April showers bring May flowers,” but here in New England we seem to be permanently and annoyingly stuck on the “showers” part. It’s been a dreary spring, and I am tired of wet, grey skies. Unfortunately, this was the 5 day forecast as of last night:
Heavens to Betsy.
The only (and I do mean only) redeeming thing about rain and chill and scarves in spring is that it allows me to continue making soup.
I thought last night was a good night to get out Mollie Katzen’s classic “Moosewood” cookbook from 1977. Moosewood refers to the vegetarian Moosewood Collective in Ithaca, New York. Katzen was a member and the cookbook, featuring a collection of the collective’s recipes at the time, was both hand-lettered and illustrated by Katzen herself.
“Moosewood” was listed by the New York Times as one of the top ten bestselling cookbooks of all time, and is arguably the most famous vegetarian cookbook in the world.
It opens with the William Blake quote, “All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.” Words after my own animal-loving heart.
I chose the Mushroom-Barley soup for its simplicity and lack of dairy. I try to keep my soups healthier without a lot of butter, milk, or cream.
Gather one pound of fresh mushrooms…(oh, how I love mushrooms).
Pour out 1/2 cup of pebbly pearl barley grains to be simmered in vegetable stock with a little tamari and sherry. I had never heard of tamari, but found it with the soy sauce. Like soy sauce, tamari is made from fermented soy beans, but is thicker, darker, and not as salty as traditional soy sauce.
Sautee a heaping cup of onions and 2 cloves of garlic.
Add the enormous pile of soft, sliced mushrooms until everything is tender and fragrant and you can’t take how good it smells for one more minute.
Add the mushrooms to the barley and stock and simmer it all together for a good 20 minutes, get out your parmesan for garnish, and you’re ready to warm up.
It’s not a beautiful soup – but the salty tang of the tamari and earthy, velvety chew of the mushrooms was exactly what I was craving, and I will be making this one again.
Hopefully in the fall when the appropriately cold, wet days signal winter is on its way.
And not a moment sooner!
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. The edition in print today is a “new” version, printed in 1992 and featuring slightly healthier versions of the originals. Mine (and this recipe) is from the original 1977 edition.
6 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup uncooked pearled barley
3-4 Tbsps. tamari
3-4 Tbsps. dry sherry
2-3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping cup onions, chopped
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
freshly ground black pepper
- In a large soup pot, cook the barley in 1 1/2 cups of the stock or water until tender.
- Add the remaining stock, tamari, and sherry.
- In a large saucepan, sautee the garlic and onions in the olive oil until the onions are soft and just translucent.
- Add the mushrooms and continue to sautee until the mushrooms are tender.
- Add all of the mushroom and onion mixture to the stock, and grind a few turns of pepper.
- Cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls and top with fresh grated parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.
Enjoy a bowl in sweatpants and try not to think about the fact that you haven’t seen the sun in days, and won’t anytime soon.
You can still visit Moosewood today. The collective continues to serve its (mostly) vegetarian fare and publish a popular series of vegetarian cookbooks.