Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bean and barley chowder

After last week's broth debacle, I was still determined to cook a bean and barley soup.  "Bean and Barley Chowder" was last week's "recipe of the week" over at the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, and it sounded good to me, but maybe a little boring, especially once I knew homemade vegetable broth was not going to be part of the formula.   Then I got an email from America's Test Kitchen about a vegetable barley soup that had deep flavors without homemade broth (warning:  non-vegan site), and the way ahead was clear.

I combined elements of both recipes, and as always this dish was also influenced by what I had in the pantry.  Lima beans and barley sounded good, but I didn't have either.  I found barley at my local health food store, but no lima beans, so I went with the cannelini beans I already had in the house.  I liked the idea of using ground dried mushrooms to add flavor to the broth, but didn't see any reason to stick to the stingy amount in the America's Test Kitchen recipe.  I ended up grinding an entire package of mixed dried mushrooms (about 0.8 oz), and putting that in.

Flavor enhancers:  portobello mushrooms, extra virgin olive oil, Bragg Liquid Aminos, ground dried mushrooms, onions, celery, leeks.

Mushroom, Bean, and Barley Chowder

All ingredient quantities are (very) approximate

One tablespoon olive oil
One onion, chopped
Two stalks celery, chopped
Two leeks, white and light green part only, halved lengthwise and then sliced crosswise
Six ounces portobello mushrooms (two big mushroom caps), diced
0.8 oz package mixed dried mushrooms, ground to a powder in an electric grinder (What?  You don't have a coffee grinder you reserve for grinding spices?  Why not?)
One pound cannelini beans, soaked overnight and then drained
About half a pound of barley
A few carrots, peeled and sliced
Bragg Liquid Aminos, to taste
Poultry seasoning, to taste
Chick'n style seasoning or nutritional yeast, to taste

In a large soup pot (6-8 quarts), saute onion, celery, and leeks in olive oil until onion is translucent.  Add portobello mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms release their liquid.  Sprinkle in poultry seasoning and powdered mushrooms and stir so they coat everything.  Add all other ingredients (I would start with two quarts of water and see how you feel), stir, bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans and barley are fully cooked.  


A few notes on ingredients:
  • There's no poultry in poultry seasoning.  It's a mixture of thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg that makes things taste like Thanksgiving.  If you don't have it, but have all those other herbs and spices, you can make your own.   
  • Those ground mushrooms really added body and flavor to the broth.  Highly recommended.  I used a mix of mushrooms that I happened to have in the pantry.  I think either porcini or shiitake would work fine.
  • If you don't have cannelini beans, any kind of white beans would work.  I would advise against using canned beans, because the cooking beans add body to the broth.
  • I threw in some chick'n seasoning because I happened to have it made up, and poultry seasoning made me think of it.  You could also use a couple tablespoons of plain nutritional yeast, or leave it out.
  • Can I just give a shout-out to Trader Joe's Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil right here?  That stuff is a revelation.  It tastes like olives.  It's probably really wasted on this recipe.  If I were really feeling decadent, I would drizzle a little on top of my bowl of soup, right before I ate it.  If you are the kind of person who likes to dunk bread in olive oil, this is the olive oil to use.
This soup was really yummy and reheated well.  I ate it for breakfast for most of the week (the photo above was taken on my desk).  My girlfriend pronounced it a keeper.  And as a bonus, I got a good start on my next broth bag: 

Onion, celery, leeks, mushrooms, carrots.   No mystery ingredients this time.



  1. That looks great! I love a mushroomy soup.

    1. Grinding up the dried mushrooms turned out to be a really great tip! I'll definitely be doing that again.