As the air chills, my thoughts and cravings turn to comfort food, with so many amazing once a year treats and sweets showing up. Carbs, carbs and more carbs. I was aided and abetted by this holiday season. As months go by, I’m completely sugared out (but still make ’em and eat ’em) but craved more vegetables. This winter, sometimes it’s a bummer; not the best time to crave fresh tomato and watermelon salad.
I’m fortunate that my local grocery store carries different kinds of grains and seeds. Healthy grains with my most loved sugary treats for this winter and beyond. Wheat berries, barley and oats for salad, for breakfast porridge and soup. Yes, soup! You only need wheat, barley-oat blend, “Mirepoix”, chicken stock, cremini mushroom, dried porcini, and a whole lot of parsley.
Mirepoix is a French essential ingredient that plays an important role in flavoring sauce, soups, stews, casseroles and braised meats. It is the combination of 2 parts onion, 1 part each of carrots and celery chopped in the same size which is gently sauteed without browning. Ask me, Do I follow this 2:1:1 vegetable formula? Not really, but Onions, celery and carrots are a must-have especially when I make stocks, soups and sauces.
Homemade chicken stock, the one and only reason I wouldn’t claim this soup as a vegetarian. I love the bold chicken flavor and taste, it is pleasing. But don’t get disappointed, there are nice store-bought chicken stock or make it vegetarian; they’re all equally nutritious and delicious.
There is a little bit of perception that Fresh is always the best, but it’s not. Certain dried and even canned food gives you a different flavor. Dried mushrooms add a meaty richness and earthy element to a dish. It is more pricy but they have that exponentially more concentrated flavor and aroma that is just waiting to be released by simply soaking them in water or grinding them into powder to create a compound. A plus factor, they’re like reduced down to their perfect mushroom essence that you will only need a little to ease in a bit more depth. Dried porcini is what I use a lot, I love the strong mushroom aroma that greets me as soon as I open the package. My Aunt from Italy sent me a small container of powdered porcini, as soon as I open it OMG! I felt like something needs to be done. I whipped some of the powder with butter into a compound that makes everything spectacular. For the first time, I tried it with steak as a final touch after searing and drizzled the remaining melted butter on top of the mashed potato. I asked myself “where did that rich, deep and heavenly deliciousness come from?” It is from porcini butter. But some haters would say ” dried porcini smells like unwashed ass crack.” Ha, ha, really? Still a must-have ingredient I kept in my cupboard.
Parsley, I use a lot, meaning a lot. I don’t use it only as a garnish to make my dish looks appealing but it is the respect it deserves. BHARAT B. AGARWAL, author of Healing Spices said “Parsley is much more than a throw-away garnish on the plat du jour or an after-dinner breath freshener. It can hold its own against any green as a worthy supplier of cell-protecting antioxidants known as flavonoids, which research shows play a rule in fighting heart disease and cancer.”
If you want to make this dish a complete meal on its own, add chicken pieces of your choice either cooked or cook with it. I like grated boiled eggs, poached eggs, or fried sunny side up eggs; delectable and beautiful toppings. You might feel like having seafood or fish, everything is possible.
WHEAT, BARLEY-OAT BLEND AND MUSHROOM SOUP
- 20 grams Dried porcini mushroom
- ¾ cup Wheat, barley and oat blend
- 2 Bay leaf
- 1 tsp Dried thyme
- 15 grams Dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Medium onion, diced
- 1 Medium carrots, diced
- 1 Celery rib, diced
- 1 tsp Chili flakes
- 3 cups Chicken stock or more
- 150 grams Button mushroom, sliced
- 1 cup, packed Chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Dried porcini powder for extra dose of flavor
- Combine dried porcini and 1 1/2 cup room temperature water in a large measuring cup and let it soak for 30 minutes to soften. Rub the porcini in the soaking liquid to rinse off any grits and coarsely chop. Reserve the soaking liquid letting any grits settle at the bottom.
- Heat a large saucepan with 2 tbsp oil in medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery stir t; o combine. Lower the heat to low, put the lid on and let it sweat for at least 8-10 minutes. Add the porcini cook for 1 minute while stirring. Add the stock, wheat blend, bay leaf and thyme and bring to boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the button mushroom and the reserved soaking liquid from step 1 (strained with a paper towel to remove the accumulated grits). Continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until the grains are soft. Turn off the heat, add all the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle in a bowl and dust with porcini powder before serving if using.