Vegetarian Mushroom Barley Soup
This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's newest book, Entrée to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.
How long have Jewish people been eating mushrooms? A long time! Mushrooms were mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (N’darim 55B), and wild mushrooms were in such abundance in ancient Israel during the rainy season that discussions arose about putting a tax on them. In later generations, mushrooms were especially important to poor Ashkenazic Jews. They were easily found in the forests, and since spices were expensive, their flavor, especially when dried, was a boost to a relatively bland diet.
One favorite dish of the Ashkenazim that survived the move from the shtetl to North America was the hearty mushroom-potato-barley soup called krupnick. In Europe, krupnick was mostly starchy potatoes seasoned with a little meat and mushroom. Today, rich flanken meat is added in large strips, and mushrooms become the major flavoring ingredient. Potatoes are often replaced by lima beans as well.
Moving with the times, I have taken the delicious beef-based mushroom barley soup from my first book and created a vegetarian version that is just as rich and delicious, and probably more like the original krupnick!
The secret to the thickness of this soup is the lima beans. They are peeled and therefore disintegrate into the stock when fully cooked. Don’t panic—they peel very easily when properly soaked and children love to pop them out of their skins.
- Cover the lima beans in a 2-quart glass bowl with 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, and then let them soak for 1 or more hours or until the skins easily slide off.
- Place dried mushrooms in a 1-quart glass bowl and cover with water. Microwave for 2 minutes, and let them sit in the water while you peel the lima beans.
- Meanwhile, remove the skins from the lima beans by gently squeezing on one end; the bean will just slide out. Place beans in a 4-quart pot.
- Carefully lift the mushrooms out of the water, and gently squeeze them over the bowl. Save the juices. Chop the soaked mushrooms and set aside.
- Add the water or broth and the chopped, soaked mushrooms to the lima beans in the pot. Strain the mushroom liquid into the pot as well.
- Heat a 10-inch frying pan for 20 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the diced onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the celery and fresh mushrooms to the pan and cook until wilted and translucent. Add this mixture to the soup pot along with the diced carrot, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook, covered, over medium heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally so that the beans do not stick to the pot.
- Add the barley and cook for ½ hour to 1 hour longer or until the barley is tender and the lima beans disappear. Check the seasoning. Add more broth if the soup is too thick (it will thicken even more when cool).
Mushroom barley soup is a good example of making the most of simple, inexpensive ingredients. Such recipes are often our favorite comfort foods.
- What’s your favorite comfort food?
- To keep a child’s attention and for safety reasons, do steps 1 and 2 before you start the recipe with a young child. Older children can work a recipe in stages, but younger ones work in the present. This is where “soak overnight” is a good step to take!
- If you own a pressure cooker, lima beans can be cooked for 15 minutes on low setting, and then they will be ready to peel.
- Do not make the mistake of buying small lima beans. It will take you forever to peel them!
- Olive oil mimics the taste of traditional goose fat, and sautéing the vegetables addsdepth to the flavor of this soup.