What could be more comforting than a bowl of soup? On our menus, there is a big variety of made-from-scratch bisques, chowders and hot and cold soups of all kinds. Some of them have names not found in my childhood memories like BLT Soup. The cold Champagne Strawberry is more like dessert and fabulous. The traditional Chicken Noodle and Cream of Tomato are not neglected. My favorite is the Gazpacho. It is very spicy with lots of garlic. It will definitely wake up any sleepy taste buds.
One of the reasons we moved to a CCRC was that cooking had become quite difficult. Now that I do not have to do this on a regular basis, the occasional kitchen venture is more fun, especially since my husband does the cleanup. When dining with our friends we often talk about cooking. Some residents do absolutely no cooking at all. A few do a lot. One Italian couple, while generally happy with our food, cannot accept the spaghetti sauce. A Japanese friend also is happy with our menu, except that the rice is not up to her standards and she cooks her own. So, what do I cook? It’s Mushroom Barley Soup.
My mother-in-law made the best rice pudding ever but it has never been matched. Believe me. I tried! My mother made the best eggplant salad (much like Middle Eastern baba ganoush). I could never duplicate it. Now, my Mushroom Barley Soup is the best! You can try it because I am going to give you the recipe. Quantities are not precise and I take no responsibility for the results.
In a large heavy soup pot, melt a big lump of butter with a few tablespoons olive oil. Mince about 4 large carrots, 4 stalks of celery, and 3 onions. Let this combination slowly sauté in the oil until soft but not brown. Add a big handful of dried dill. Now dump in about 1 pound of sliced mushrooms (I use a mix of white and baby bella. You could be more adventuresome. Please buy them. Do not go foraging. I don’t want to be the cause of any disasters). Let this mixture continue to sauté over medium heat until it looks like the shrooms are mostly cooked and everything is well mixed. There will now be some brown liquid at the bottom. Stir in about a cup of barley (rinse first). Add enough water to almost fill the pot. Cover and leave on very low heat for a very long time stirring occasionally. The trick is to let it simmer until the barley is not only cooked, but has made the soup look creamy. Salt and pepper are personal issues. I add just a little salt during cooking because my husband is low salt and does not like pepper. Then, when I re-heat to eat, I add salt and pepper to my own bowl. It tastes best the next day. This is enough to feed a big crowd, or to stock your freezer.