Friday, January 29, 2010

Barley Soup with Carmelized Onions

I don't think I've ever truly carmelized onions before, but today I was determined to actually do it. After the initial 40-minute cooking period, it took another 45 minutes for the onions to truly become golden brown. Which isn't a big deal, because you can chop up your other vegetables and then write a novella while the slow carmelization takes place. I have to say, though, it really is worth it.

Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a cookbook that I significantly underuse. Every time I look through it I realize what a vast resource of very creative and finely-tuned dishes it is.

This recipe called for two quarts of homemade stock, for which she also gives the recipe. But, as always, I wanted to see if I could cut a corner or two ... so I added garlic, bay leaf, and thyme to the soup, and used a combination of water and chicken stock. Pouf! Great soup. It is very reminiscent of French onion soup, probably because of the slow-cooked onions.

I do try to keep some dried mushrooms on hand just for instances like this.
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

1/4 cup olive oil
3 CSA yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice

A splash of white wine

One 1/2-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms

2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons minced dried rosemary

1 quart chicken broth
3 cups water
1 cup CSA pearl barley, rinsed
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
1 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon salt

Salt and pepper
Grated pecorino or other cheese

Heat oil in heavy soup pot over low heat. Add onions, cover and cook for 40 minutes. Remove cover, raise heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, 'til onions are golden brown and carmel-y. This may take another 40 to 45 minutes, so be patient.

Put the porcinis in a small bowl and pour one cup boiling water over. After about 20 minutes, remove the porcini, strain the broth into a one-cup measure, and add water so the broth equals one cup again. Chop the porcini. Set aside.

When the onions are carmelized, deglaze the pot by stirring in a splash of white wine, scraping up the brown bits.

Stir in the tomato paste and rosemary, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the barley, vegetables, porcini, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, salt, chicken broth, 3 cups water, and porcini broth. Simmer, partially covered, for about 25 minutes or until the barley and vegetables are done.

Remove bay leaves. Serve soup with pecorino, parmesan, or cheese of your choice on top.

4 to 6 servings

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