Some soups genuinely do inspire fidelity akin to love, and this is one of them. In the doldrums of winter, when I mull over the matter of what soup to cook up to provide comfort all weekend long, I decide with remarkable frequency to make this one. Despite the short list of ingredients, it has a distinct heartiness thanks in part to the mushrooms and kale, but mostly from the barley.
Oh barley. It’s such a great ingredient–plump, chewy grains and endless versatility–but it’s definitely the sensible, sturdy shoes in the world of fashionable grains. That’s fine with me, because it means the price is low (typically under two dollars per box). Medium, pearl barley is the most common option at the supermarket; it takes about 45 to 50 minutes to cook, which is not a big deal unless you have left dinner preparations to the very last minute (I am raising my hand). That’s why I keep quick-cooking barley on hand, and why I used it for this recipe.
Quick-cooking barley cooks in a measly 10 to 12 minutes. It has a whopping 5 grams of dietary fiber and 5 grams of protein per 1/3 cup serving and all of the same great taste as more traditional barley. The only noticeable difference is marginal: the grains are rolled (similar to rolled oats, but fatter) to speed along the cooking, so they are somewhat flatter than usual. No big deal when you are hungry enough to eat the placemats. In addition, according to the nonprofit Whole Grains Council, quick-cooking barley typically has a lower glycemic index (raises blood sugar more slowly) than pearl barley.
I should mention where to find barley in your supermarket. The section with other grains, like rice, is the logical place, but it is unlikely to be there. For some reason, grocery stores think barley is synonymous with soup, so head in that direction; you’ll most likely find it sandwiched between the boxes of cup-o-soup and ramen. The “healthy” or “natural” foods section of the store is your second best bet.
Barley. It’s what’s for dinner.
- 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
- 1-1/2 cups chopped onions (about 1 large)
- 12 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 2-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 5 cups water
- 1-3/4 cups quick-cooking barley
- 3 tablespoons miso paste (any variety--I used golden Genmai miso )
- 8 cups chopped kale (tough stems removed--look for bags of pre-chopped kale)
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add mushrooms and ginger; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes longer or until mushrooms and onions are softened.
- Stir in broth, water, miso, and barley. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the kale; cover and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes longer or until kale is wilted. Done!
Buying Miso: Miso lasts a LONG time in the refrigerator. So while it may cost 6 or 7 dollars for a tub, it will provide instant flavor to countless recipe. Use it as your salt/multipurpose seasoning in and on anything savory you can think of :)