Marvelous Mushroom Barley Soup

January is a time when warm and satisfying food is especially welcome – and this super soup is just the thing. It’s nourishing and healthy with a wonderful flavor.

Pearl barley is the most common form of barley used for cooking, yet it is a much under used alternative to rice and pasta. It was first cultivated over ten thousand years ago in Asia where people started eating it like wheat in boiled porridge, soups and bread. Barley has a slightly sweet and mild taste, is a good source of fiber and contains the minerals iron and selenium.

In this recipe, it absorbs the flavor of the carrots, thyme and oregano. Use almost any type of mushroom in this dish, including the button variety found in virtually all food markets. You can experiment with other varieties to customize the soup because different mushroom types will alter the taste – for example, the larger varieties can add a "meaty" quality to the overall flavor.

The shallot, a member of the white onion family, is native to the Middle Eastern region of the Mediterranean. Shallots do tend to cook faster than onions and are often used as a substitute for both regular onions and garlic. Some people find they don’t cause the same harsh breath odors and digestive stress.

The beef stock unifies all the flavors. Beef broth may be used, but stock – which is made from boiling bones as opposed to boiling meat to make broth – provides more richness to the soup. This straightforward, easy to prepare recipe is healthy and pleasing. Be sure to make some extra for delicious leftovers; when paired with a sandwich made with crusty whole or multi-grain bread, this soup is a real time saver for a quick lunch or basic dinner.

Marvelous Mushroom Barley Soup - Makes 6 servings.

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thin (like coins)
1 1/2 lbs. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup chopped shallots, including most of green stems
3 Tbsp. dry white cooking wine (optional)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
5 cups reduced-sodium beef stock
3/4 cup pearl barley
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 small yellow pepper, chopped

Heat oil and butter in large pot over high heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and shallots. Cook an additional 4 minutes, continuing to stir frequently, until onions and carrots soften and mushrooms wilt.

Add wine, thyme and oregano. Reduce heat to low. Stir and scrape browned bits from the bottom, and cook an additional 5 minutes.

Stir in stock, barley, salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until barley is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in yellow pepper and 1/3 cup parsley, and simmer for about 3-4 minutes.

Garnish with remaining parsley and serve.

Per serving: 260 calories, 9 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 34 g carbohydrate, 11 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 330 mg sodium.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $95 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

Photo Credit: American Institute for Cancer Research

Article Posted: June 16, 2012

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