Saturday, November 17, 2012

Slow Cooker Wild Mushroom Barley Soup

Now that I'm in the midst of my thesis project, I've been spending especially long days in the print studio and bindery at school. Add to that classes, two jobs, visiting artist lectures, show openings, conferences, and a constant supply of meetings and I find myself returning home at night too tired to cook a quality meal. Which is a shame because I really do love to cook.

Enter the slow cooker. Now, I know slow cookers are pretty trendy these days, but I'm happy to jump on this particular bandwagon. They are easy to use, economical, and reliable. Dinner is pretty much ready the minute you step in the door and you will be welcomed with a home that smells delicious. That said, there will probably be a series of slow cooker recipes to follow this fall/winter as I continue to pull long inky days on the press.

I made this soup because of two rather fortunate events. One, my mom visited last weekend and two, she brought with her some fresh chanterelles from home! (Along with other local goodies including Deadman's Reach Raven's Brew Coffee, Chehalis Mints, cookies from my favorite Olympia bakery, and a couple indulgent concoctions from Radiance Herbs and Massage. Thanks Mom!)

Wild Mushroom Barley Soup

What you need:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small to medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 green onions, white and light green parts chopped
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced or torn into small pieces
8 oz chanterelle mushrooms, torn into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 cup sherry or white wine
6 cups mushroom or vegetable stock
3/4 cup uncooked barley
1 bay leaf
1 generous pinch of each: thyme, marjoram, sage, and tarragon
1/2 cup half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute onion in oil for a few minutes until softened. Add celery and green onions and saute for about two minutes. Add both types of mushrooms and garlic and saute for about five minutes, until mushrooms begin to release juices. Remove from heat.

Add the sauted onion/celery/mushrooms to the crock pot along with the wine, stock, barley and herbs. Turn your slow cooker to Low and simmer for about six hours, until the barley is tender and the flavors have deliciously mellowed. 

Walking in the door after being away for several hours provides a happy aromatic reminder of what is waiting for you quietly in the kitchen. . .

When the soup is ready, turn off the slow cooker and stir in the half and half and salt and pepper to taste. I have also made this soup with wild rice instead of barley with tasty results.  

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