Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harvest Meal: Kale and Barley Soup

As winter wears on it's getting harder to cobble together dishes that I can justly call harvest meals. But I manage it, more or less, sometimes. Here's one example. This is a hearty soup made with our frozen but homegrown Tuscan kale, a few leeks I literally chopped out of the frozen ground during a brief period of above-freezing temperatures, my homemade lamb stock, a little homegrown garlic stored as garlic butter, and purchased ingredients including some pearl barley, carrots, fresh oregano, and local, pastured bacon.

My method for this soup was a little more fussy than I would normally bother with. I steamed the pearl barley because I was in a hurry. I figured I could start it steaming before I did anything else so that the soup would be nearly finished by the time I had all the vegetables chopped and cooked. It worked out pretty well, even if it did involve more things to clean than is normally necessary when making soup.

After the pearl barley was in the steamer, I cut three slices of smoked bacon into small strips and melted a good hunk of garlic butter in the soup pot. When the butter was melted and the garlic was sizzling I added the bacon strips to brown up over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, I cleaned and trimmed the leeks, and finely chopped them, then peeled a few carrots and chopped those as well. When the bacon had begun to crisp up, I added the leeks to saute for a few minutes. When they were well softened, I added a quart of my double-strength lamb stock, an equal amount of water, and a vegan bouillon cube (for extra flavor), and brought the liquid to a low boil. The chopped carrots, a generous amount of our frozen, pre-chopped Tuscan kale, and a few sprigs of fresh oregano were added. I seasoned with bay leaf, salt and pepper and reduced the heat to a steady but low simmer. I let that cook until the carrots were no longer hard and raw, and then added the steamed barley, which was nearly fully cooked. I let it go a few more minutes to finish off the barley. When ready to serve, I fished out the bay leaf and the stems of oregano, which had released their leaves into the soup.

The soup was good the first day, drizzled with a garnish of olive oil. Very hearty, nourishing, and warming. But like many soups, the leftovers have definitely improved in flavor as they sat around for a few days. I especially like the chewy goodness of the barley, and the meaty quality of the soup that comes from very little meat.

What soups are keeping you warm these days?


It's me said...

I made a beef barley the other day with morels that a friend sent from Montana.

This soup looks really tasty... I'd love to hear a smidgen more about "double strength" broth. Is it canned the same? And I'm assuming it's just cooked down?

Anonymous said...

I've recently been discovering the joys of barley. I'll have to give something like this a go!

Minni Mum said...

Yum Kate, it looks delicious. I've bookmarked it to try when the weather cools down over here :-)

I'm interested in how you freeze your kale as mine has keeled over in teh heat and I need to do something with it tomorrow! Do you blanch it first or just chop and freeze?

Cheers, Julie

Kate said...

Meadowlark, my stock just turned out double strength because I had so many bones, and only two big soup pots. I was in a hurry to get out of town for Thanksgiving when I made it, so I just froze it. I might have canned it if I had thought of it and had the time. I'm sure you could just make double strength stock by reducing it though. I posted about my lamb stock making here:

Darren, barley is newish for me too. Pearl barley is unfortunately not a whole grain. But I make similar soups with whole spelt berries that turn out great.

Julie, thanks. Yes, I did blanch, shock, and then chop our kale before freezing it. It's Tuscan kale so it's sturdy enough to stand up to such treatment. I need to do that to make sure I got all the caterpillars off the leaves before freezing. They're sometimes very hard to see on the underside of the leaf.

Anonymous said...

I love kale in any form, and especially with leeks in soup. Your mention of wheat berries sound like they would be delicious, and add the nutty flavor that barley kind of lacks. Do you think freezing the soup would work? I have tons of frozen kale/other-greens soup, but was hesitant to freeze soups with grain in them....

Minni Mum said...

Hi Kate, thanks :-) Sounds like those tiny caterpillars are pretty ubiquitous regardless of where you live - my Tuscan kale has them too.

Country Girl said...

I made turkey barley soup just the other day. Your recipe sounds good. I have yet to try kale or leeks but I plan to this summer.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, looks sooooooooooooo yummy!!!

Kate said...

LIALZ, I don't usually freeze this soup. So I can't say for sure how it would do in the freezer. But I don't see any reason why it would suffer. The whole grains especially should hold up rather well in the freezer. I suggest you try it with a small amount of leftover soup and see how it is when you thaw it.

Julie, yes. Cabbage family members are like caterpillar magnets. I've had good luck treating my crucifers with my homemade non-toxic bug spray though. So long as I spray early and spray often, I've seen good results. It doesn't kill the critters, just encourages them to go elsewhere.

Countrygirl, I think you'll enjoy growing both of those crops. The leeks in particular have been trouble free for me.

Thanks, NFTFT!