Friday, February 14, 2014

Barley Mountain Soup

This is one delinquent blogger. 
First of all, I didn't take any pictures of this soup. 
And then there's the issue of posting about a not-so-romantic dish on Valentine's Day. Here we are doing this Italian culinary quest! So romantic, right? I mean, here's all the evidence you need of Italian food being romantic. And on this fine fourteen of February, I give you barley. mountain. soup.

With no pictures. 
I'm never going to make it in this blogging world.
But. In my defense. The original plan was to post the pesto recipe today and the soup earlier this week. And then life happened. As it seems to more and more often. So today you get barley mountain soup. Though, given the constant gray and rain in the Pacific Northwest and the near constant snow piling up on the East coast, this may make for a romantic snowed-or-rained-in Valentine's Date. 

So. There we have it. And now, Barley Mountain Soup from The Italian Country Table by Kasper. 

The original recipe:

2 medium onions
2 medium carrots
1/4 tightly packed cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 large garlic cloves
3 to 4 medium red-skinned potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup barley (organic if possible)
1/2 pound ham shank or hocks or shank of prosciutto
3 3-inch branches of fresh rosemary
1 quart buttermilk (optional)
About 4 quarts water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop the onions, carrots, parsley, and garlic. Combine the barley, potatoes, and meat in a 6- to 8-quart pot. Add half the onion mixture to the pot with 2 branches of the rosemary. Add the buttermilk if desired. Then add 4 quarts water. Simmer 50 minutes or until the barley is almost tender. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the rest of the chopped vegetables to a golden brown.

Add to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Simmer another 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove the meat and bones. Break up meat into small pieces and return them to the pot, along with more water if the soup is as dense as stew. It should be a thick but soupy soup. Strip the leaves from the remaining 1 branch of rosemary and mince. Stir into the pot and simmer another 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Serve hot.  

Our thoughts and notes:

You guys, I really know nothing about buying ham shanks or hocks.
And the only thing I know about prosciutto is those delicious and delicate slices of salty meaty glory. And so (unsurprisingly) when I went to our beloved WinCo to buy the called-for shanks/hocks, I was terribly confused what to buy. Especially because I only needed 1/2 pound. And all the ham shanks were 5 pounds. No bueno. And hocks were nowhere to be found. And my wonderfully helpful husband was not on this particular grocery run with me to adroitly navigate uncharted territories. *sigh* So what did I do, you may ask? I bought a tube of pork sausage, like a good American. Now, I completely understand that this probably changed the very essence of the recipe, but alas. It is what I used. And the soup was pretty darn tasty. I do take comfort from the introduction of the recipe, which states, "Through the winter the people of northern Italy's Trentino region rely on this soup, made with barley grown in their fields and meats the cure themselves- sometimes it is a meat shank of ham, sometimes sausage, and sometimes speck, smoked and air-dried leg of of pork."

I was unclear about the rosemary. I thought that I was supposed to take the leaves off the 2 branches you add early on, because it never said to take them out at the end. But in retrospect, I think the intention is to put the whole branches in for flavor while the soup cooks and then remove them at the end, but then also add the minced rosemary at the end. The large leaves were a bit too much. So it goes. 

I used buttermilk, but I did not use a quart, as I wanted some semblance of healthiness in this soup. I probably used two cups. It did, as Kasper states in the intro, add a wonderful tanginess. 

I made 1.5 times this recipe and it made about 8 hearty servings. And this did not take near as much time or effort as the minestrone!

May I suggest you listen to this playlist as you prepare this romantic Valentine's Day soup?

Buon appetito!

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