Barley, Mushroom, Butternut Squash, and Spinach Soup Recipe – and new culinary tours!
October in Charleston is officially the beginning of the fall season for me, at least emotionally and also from a cooking standpoint. Most of the beastly heat and hurricane threats are behind us, and we can settle into the beautiful winter squashes, greens, apples, and root vegetables of the season and the grains and flavors that pair so well with them. I’ve been thinking about barley a lot lately. It reminds me of my Nanna who loved to cook with whole grains and simple, unprocessed ingredients like barley, because we all should eat more of it (just one cup contains 128% of a day’s worth of dietary fiber), and because its chewy/soft, nutty goodness is a shoe-in pairing with winter squash, which are bursting from the grocers’ bins and farmers’ markets these days.
I love cooking with all kinds of winter squash. Hubbard, delicata, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, turban – all of them. A preferred way to use them is to roast them, halved, and puree them with seasonings, a little stock, cream or butter. They make beautiful soups practically all on their own. I have several such recipes in Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith, 2017) . One of my favorites is the luscious and deceptively simple Maple Acorn Squash Soup (page 97) which was inspired by my mother’s maple syrup and butter-filled bacon acorn squash halves that we regularly enjoyed at our fall dinner table and sometimes for holidays.
I’m using butternut here because it can increasingly be found pre-cut, the pesky hard cover removed, and already cubed for handy additions to soups (such as these), or a steamed, roasted or pureed side. Any of the others would work just as well. Be careful to cut and peel with care. A sharp, sturdy paring knife and ample patience will do the trick. Simmering the barley with the mushrooms and squash adds a lovely richness to the soup with virtually no added fat except for the olive oil used to sweat the onions and celery. Fresh or frozen spinach (or substitute kale) is added near the very end. You will likely need to add more liquid to the soup left-overs, as the barley is notorious for absorbing extra liquid as much as bad cholesterol from our bodies – another reason to love it and eat it often. Most of all, the soup comes together simply and quickly in one hour. I enjoyed its aromas watching football this weekend and recalling fond memories of my favorite season.
(Makes 10 to 12 servings)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, medium dice
3 stalks celery, medium dice
Light kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped button mushrooms
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped shitake mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried, rubbed sage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart water
3 cups cubed, peeled, fresh butternut squash
Juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
3 tablespoons local honey
4 cups additional stock or water as needed
2 cups chopped, frozen spinach
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and light salt and pepper. Stir to coat and sweat until softened, three minutes. Add the button and shitake mushrooms, garlic, garlic, sage, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to coat and cook another three minutes until just wilted. Add the barley and wine. Stir and cook a minute or so until wine has reduced to nothing. Add chicken stock, water, butternut squash squash, lemon juice and honey. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. After thirty minutes, add additional water/stock as needed (you want soup consistency, not porridge). After forty five minutes of cooking, add the spinach, stir and heat through for a final fifteen minutes. Serve hot. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, grated Parmesan cheese or finely chopped walnuts as desired. (Note: The soup will store well, refrigerated and covered, for several days. More liquid may need to be added before reheating and serving).
Cooking Classes and Now Culinary Tours
A lot of my cooking class students have been asking for culinary tours for themselves, friends or even their businesses. I have added customized tours – those built around individual tastes, budgets, interests (history, culinary, chefs, restaurants, menu items, etc.), and timeline, to my repertoire. These can be bundled with classes in my kitchen, signed copies of my cookbooks, and a personalized tour led by me. Pricing dependent on dates, tour size, length and details of tour. Contact me on my website if you’re interested in finding out more.
Happy cooking, enjoy the cool and wonderful days of October.
Bon appetit – Holly