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Barley season

Is it soup yet?

Barley is not at all hard to find in the United States, but I don’t think I’ve ever known a traditional cook who uses it. That’s a shame, because not only is barley a fantastic comfort food, its glycemic index is very low — 25. The best soup I ever had was a Scotch broth in a little restaurant in Scotland. It was partly the barley that made the broth so nice and thick (and probably a few sheep bones). Barley can be cooked and served like rice. Or it can be used in risotto instead of rice. In Mediterranean cooking, risotto is a comfort food that probably occupies the same niche as mashed potatoes to us Celtic types.

I bought a bag of barley from the Yadkin Valley General Store, since I knew we’d be getting soup weather before long. I assume the barley came from Pennsylvania, since that’s where this store gets most of its stock. It’s certainly soup weather today: 61 degrees outside with rain and drizzle. I made the season’s first big pot of vegetable soup and included a couple of generous scoops of barley.

I love to have a pot of soup on the stove on cool, rainy days when I have nowhere to go. I’m generous with the garlic. To me, garlic is a vegetable, not just a seasoning. If you crush the cloves lightly but don’t chop them, the garlic flavor won’t overpower the soup.

Soon I want to experiment with some barley risotto. This recipe from Gourmet magazine for roasted cauliflower barley risotto looks inspiring.

Pearled barley

Peeled garlic…

…after a few licks with a cutting board to crush them just a bit

Raw soup with a heap of barley. Yes, that’s a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, but I did use fresh onions, cabbage, celery, etc.

It’s started simmering. Three hours to go.

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