Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup with Mini Meatballs

I'm anxious to embrace spring, warm weather, and all it has to offer, but I will be sad when soup season comes to an end, so I'm sneaking in a few more winter weather recipes before I dive fully into the fresh ingredients of spring. I've had a bag of barley in the cabinet since I made a different mushroom barley soup a while back and I when I stumbled across this recipe when searching for ways to use it I was more than ready for another batch of mushroom barley soup. I just love how the savory, earthy, tender mushrooms complement the nutty and chewy barley-this soup is so deeply hearty without being heavy. This soup will have the most flavor with homemade beef stock and a variety of mushrooms, but will still be delicious with good canned stock and white mushrooms. If I make this again I'll make 32 meatballs instead of 16, and brown the meatballs in the pan with the mushrooms and shallots before adding them to the soup for extra flavor. Serve it alongside a crisp green salad and piece of freshly baked bread (like a delicious multigrain loaf from Batch Bakehouse) and you've got a well-rounded, highly satisfying lunch or dinner.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Mini Meatballs
from Food and Wine
serves 4

4 cups beef stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup pearled barley
1 large thyme sprig
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (or 3/4-pound presliced mushrooms)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground sirloin
1 large egg
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sour cream, for serving (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, combine the stock, water, barley and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the barley is nearly tender, about 18 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until tender and browned, about 8 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the sirloin, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Knead the mixture until blended, then roll it into sixteen 1-inch balls.

4. Add the meatballs and mushrooms to the soup and simmer over moderate heat until the meatballs are cooked through and the barley is tender, about 8 minutes. Discard the thyme. Stir the parsley into the soup and serve in bowls with sour cream.

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