Thursday, November 1, 2007

Spicy Grain Soup?

This recipe is from Food and Wine magazine via Cream Puffs in Venice. I am always looking for healthy, hearty soups and stews and I am sure that this soup (and myriad versions) will frequently find a place on our table.

When made and served right away, this soup is soupy (duh), but when made ahead and held for two days, it ends up looking like this picture. It becomes a risotto-type dish which could work as a side dish too.

I modified the recipe based on what I had on hand (added quinoa, couldn't find parsnips, etc.); for the "official" recipe check the link below. I am not certain that the initial 45 minutes of simmering really needs to be that long, but everything pureed beautifully with my immersion blender (no pepper skins or unwelcome chunks of garlic).

Spicy Grain Soup (adapted from Food and Wine, November 2007)
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 ancho or dried mulato chiles—stemmed, seeded and broken into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cilantro sprigs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced (same size as mushrooms)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • chopped cilantro, about 1/4 cup
Cook the barley and brown rice (I used my rice cooker and cooked each separately. I see no reason why you couldn't use leftover brown rice that you bought at a Chinese restaurant). Have the grains cooking while you're making the rest of the soup.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the chiles, onion and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, and cilantro sprigs and season with 1 tablespoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender and return to the pan.

Add the mushrooms, black beans and zucchini to the pureed soup and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the barley and rice and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, and squeeze a lime wedge over each serving.

Note: This will turn stewy and risotto-like if made ahead. If you want to keep it soupy, don't add the grains until you want to serve: keep them aside, heat the soup base and then scoop in the grains to heat through.

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