Not Martha

catching up

I used this weekend to catch up, and it feels so great. I filed everything remaining from 2006, finally put away the Christmas tree, mailed off a bunch of things to friends that had been waiting for a few weeks, cleaned all the receipts, recipes and old magnets off the fridge, and made soup which I froze it in preparation for a Soup Swap next weekend (which I’m very excited about). I made Mushroom-Barley Soup from How To Cook Everything and it can be labeled soup success, a nice surprise since it was the first time I’d made soup. It’s vegetarian, and doesn’t need any oil or fat (it doesn’t use a stock). I’m very impressed with it.

I have a question about one of the steps, see below.

- – - – -

Mushroom-Barley Soup
from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Makes at least 6 servings.
Time: About one hour.

8 cups water
1 cup pearled barley
1 cup roughly chopped carrots
1 cup roughly chopped parsnip
1 cup roughly chopped onion [I did 1/2 C. large shallot and 1/2 C. onion]
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 pound fresh mushrooms, any kind
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup snipped fresh dill, minced chives, or minced parsley leaves

1. Put the water in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the barley,
carrots, onion, and parsnip.

2. Turn the heat to low and partially cover; the mixture should be
bubbling, but only a little. Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water to
cover until tender (about 10 minutes), and clean, trim, and slice the
fresh mushrooms.

3. Strain the soaked mushrooms; reserve their liquid. Add all the
mushrooms to the simmering soup. Add the mushroom-soaking liquid to
the soup. Simmer the soup for 30 to 45 minutes more, until the barley
and vegetables are tender.

4. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in half the dill, chives, or
parsley, then top individual servings with the remaining herb. [I
forgot to add the parsley to the soup and it's still yummy without it,
but the herb does add a nice note.]

- – - – -

Ok, here is my question. In step #3, why do you add the soaked porcini mushrooms, and then the reserved liquid? Why don’t you just pour the whole bowl of soaked mushrooms and water into the pot at the same time?

· comments [26] · 01-22-2007 · categories:food · recipes ·

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mj // Jan 22, 2007 at 9:30 am

    I think it’s because sometimes the dried mushrooms have a good amount of dirt on them, so you may want to strain the soaking liquid through cheesecloth to make sure there’s no grit that made it through the seive when you drained the mushrooms.

  • 2 megan // Jan 22, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Oh, this makes sense. Thank you.

  • 3 emira // Jan 22, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I haven’t got a clue frankly — and I’m not convinced about the dirt explaination as I’d have a hard time telling dirt from mushroom in any of the dried porcinis I’ve ever used. It would make sense if you wanted to cut them up a bit before you put them in the soup as you’d want to drain, cut then add the chopped and liquid to the soup, otherwise… no clue.

    Sounds yummy though. I’ve been hankering for a mushroom barley soup, so I’ll give this a whirl.

    What is this soup swap that you speak of anyway? Sound awesome.

  • 4 Olga // Jan 22, 2007 at 10:16 am

    I’ve had that book since it was published, and it’s seriously my go-to book for almost everything. I think you could almost say, how do you toast bread? And there’ll be something in there about that. I made the best macaroni & cheese from the book–I think that’s one of it’s strengths, that it includes everything from simple to more complicated recipes, but always advocates for good, quality ingredients.

    Anyway! My initial thought on the mushroom question was that maybe the mushrooms hold a lot of the liquid like sponges, so when you strain it, it releases a lot of that flavor back into the soup, which might otherwise just be trapped in the mushrooms. But the idea about catching the grit in the sieve makes sense to me, too.

  • 5 megan // Jan 22, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Emira – it’s a pretty neat idea, here is more information on what a soup swap is, and tomorrow is actually National Soup Swap Day.

  • 6 rachel // Jan 22, 2007 at 10:30 am

    The mushrooms can continue to soak up the liquid and get quite waterlogged and then you won’t have any juice left for the cooking!

  • 7 jennifer {creatingfromscratch} // Jan 22, 2007 at 10:47 am

    The editor probably needed to add a tiny bit of text to the page to make the lines fill the page. (My theory, anyhow…wearing my editor hat).

  • 8 Cinnamon // Jan 22, 2007 at 10:48 am

    The dried porcinis I always get are whole. So I take them out, slice them. Strain out any scary bits from the liquid and then stick that in the soup. This sounds great!

    And I’ve been looking for a barley soup, too. I’ve occasionally substituted steel-cut oats for barley in recipes before. Different texture, but a nice nuttyness.

  • 9 rosebengal // Jan 22, 2007 at 11:41 am

    It is definitely a grit issue although chopping them after soaking makes the task much easier. After you finish the soak you can easily remove the mushrooms (and then chop them more readily) and then decant the soaking liquid sans the dregs.

  • 10 jamie // Jan 22, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    that sounds really good. what’s the consistency like (broth-y like miso, slightly thick…)? sorry, just trying to get an idea before i make it myself. i’m a little picky when it comes to soup :). also, do you think using vegetable stock in place of the water would be to much?

  • 11 LizP // Jan 22, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    What if there was an error in the order of the recipe? My first thought is that you might soak the mushrooms first, then put that reserved liquid with the water to make a total of 8 cups. Just a thought …

  • 12 cheriwan // Jan 22, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I think I’m on the fence about the straining issue. I’ve not been one for the straining when adding any dried mushroon to soup, as I find they are easier to chop up while dried, and then I dump the whole thing in. However, when I make risotto, I alwyas strain them, add the mushroom “broth” at the beggining, then add the porcinis in towards the end. It’s a great way to infuse more flavor. I love that steel-cut oat idea, I’m going to have to try it!!

  • 13 Jess // Jan 22, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I agree with mj – I think it’s the dirt thing. Lots of little particles get caught in the strainer, but aren’t big enough to dump back in the soup with the mushrooms!

  • 14 Nia // Jan 22, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    I think this is a mistake. Why you even need to soak the mushrooms in the first place? Save a step and throw the dry mushrooms right in the pot. I would sautee the veggies -at least the carrots and onion- in a little olive oil or butter beforehand to add flavor. Sauteeing the barley might work too.

  • 15 Amy S. // Jan 22, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Maybe it depends on the brand of porcini, but every time I’ve used them, they’ve been quite sandy. I wouldn’t just add them dry, but I’ve got a very low tolerance for grit between my teeth (shudder). I always swish them around in their soaking liquid to de-grit them, then strain the soaking liquid through cheesecloth.

    I also agree that sauteing the onions first is a very good idea.

  • 16 megan // Jan 22, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Jamie – the soup is thick and packed full of the ingredients. It’s very satisfying. There are dozens of other soups in the book that start with stocks, the chapter starts with a long talk about how to make stock and why it’s good, so I figure there is a reason this one does not use it.

    Liz P – Maybe, but this soup just doesn’t need to be that precise. Besides which the amount of soaking liquid isn’t specified, it’s just “to cover”, so I doubt it.

    Nia – I’m pretty sure it’s not a mistake, it’s a pretty precise sort of book. The book has dozens of other soups that start with sauteeing the vegetables that go into them so I think there is a reason this one doesn’t start with that. Though I don’t disagree that it might add flavor I’m not sure that is what the recipe is trying to bring out.

  • 17 stephanie s // Jan 22, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    oooh, don’t just toss the mushrooms in without soaking, sometimes not all of the mushroom reconstitutes itself and you could lose a tooth if you are not careful… and yeah, the reserving and adding the mushroom liquid later is to make sure you don’t get the gritty bits in there.

  • 18 chronicler // Jan 22, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    We could have all stopped with mj. She is correct. How to Cook Everything was written meticulously and guarantees success with every recipe, if, followed exactly. It helps novice cooks cook well, and then allows those of us who are a bit more experienced a chance to experiment a bit. However, I don’t recommend not straining as the nasty bits are exactly that.

    Looks like I’m making soup tomorrow!

  • 19 iportion // Jan 22, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Man that looks good makes me crave more mushrooms.

  • 20 K1rk // Jan 22, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    It is absolutely the grit issue.

    You don’t have to go through straining the soaking liquid, though. Here’s a trick I use that I learned from a cajillion hours of reading cookbooks.

    Soak the mushrooms in a pyrex measuring cup or some other bowl that has a spout on the edge. After they have soaked, lift the mushrooms out of the soaking liquid and do what you need to do with them.

    After you’ve finished working with the mushrooms and the water has settled, there will be either a little or a lot of sand and grit at the bottom of the cup. Pour off the liquid leaving the grit in the bottom. Err on the side of leaving too much of the soaking water in the bowl. You don’t want to end up pouring the grit into your soup.

  • 21 Vanessa // Jan 23, 2007 at 12:58 am

    Mmm, that recipe sounds good. I think I’ll try that come winter…

  • 22 Kiddley » Blog Archive » Soup Swap Day // Jan 23, 2007 at 3:12 am

    [...] For those of you who live in the United States, the 23rd of January is National Soup Swap day (via Not Martha). [...]

  • 23 Karen M // Jan 23, 2007 at 5:43 am

    What everybody else said. You want to strain that mushroom soaking liquid. I can’t even make myself think of not doing that…eeew. I should say I give my fresh mushrooms slightly more of a wash than most cooks recommend for the same reason.

    We all love our mushroom barley soup here, and this looks like a great version. Need to try that this weekend…

  • 24 Kristi // Jan 23, 2007 at 7:24 am

    The recipe states to strain the mushrooms and reserve the liquid, then they are both added. The dirt and grit comments make a lot of sense. Instead of cheesecloth, strain using coffee filter(s), which most of us have around the kitchen.

  • 25 cindy // Jan 23, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve noticed the directions in some of the book’s recipes are strange like that. But so far I’ve enjoyed it since getting it for Christmas. I’ve made the basic tomato sauce, potato and cheese pizzas, and Andrea’s pasta and ribs.

  • 26 megan // Feb 2, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Some notes on the soup after making it the second time:

    This turns out thicker than you would expect from the ingredients and it’s packed so full of mushrooms and barley it’s a sight. It’s more delicious than I remembered — I’m letting it cool right now and I keep going into the kitchen to grab spoonfuls out of the pot (this batch is just for me and Scott).

    I realized late that this is actually a vegan soup. I never thought vegan could be this good, it’s so very — umami?

    I threw in 1/8th a cup of fresh parsley as I was taking it off the heat, I don’t know if I’d want more than that. I used 3/4 teaspoon of salt and that seems to do the trick. I used 1 cup of large shallot instead of 1 cup of onion and I think I prefer it (I’ve never been a fan of onions unless they are carmelized).

    I think this will be a regular in my house.

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