Tuesday, January 24, 2012

beef barley soup

I've blogged about this before, but I still don't often cook with meat. I should also mention that my husband and I recently watched Forks Over Knives, at the suggestion of my parents. Have you seen it? You should. I've watched Food Inc., read Omnivore's Dilemma, poured over Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and read just about everything Heidi Swanson has written, but this movie took it to the next level. Advocating for a very plant-centric, as vegan-as-possible diet?? I used to think vegans were crazy. Maybe I still do. But now my love for cheese is tainted by a small fear of dairy. And we started buying almond milk. Eggs, though? Although I had a delicious egg-like tofu scramble at Spoonriver once, I still don't know if I can give up eggs.

Since my parents watched Forks Over Knives, they decided to start trying to eat a more plant-centered diet, which translated into them emptying their freezer of beef and giving it all to us. All the beef comes from my uncle's farm, so knowing that it's not from CAFO cows makes me feel a little better. However, I still feel a bit like we have an unwanted house guest when I think of all that beef sitting in our freezer. Last night I made peace with the package of stew meat and concocted this soup.
Leftovers for lunch: picture taken via my dinosaur phone at work...sorry about that.*

Beef Barley Soup

1 package stew meat (1 lb? 1/2 lb? I really have no idea)
1 Tbsp oil (I used olive) 
1 leek, cut lengthwise, washed, and sliced into half-moons
2 carrots, sliced into coins
1 pkg mushrooms, sliced
4 C chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp each dried rosemary & thyme
1/4 C cooking sherry
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C quick-cooking barley
water, as needed

Place dutch oven or other pot with lid over medium heat. I used a cast iron dutch oven, so didn't need to add oil first - use your discretion. Add the stew meat pieces and brown, turning once, to sear the meat. After turning, once you've got some good browning happening, remove meat from pot and set aside on a plate.

If necessary, drain any liquid/fat from the pot. Add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks, carrots, and mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes, until the veggies have softened a bit. Pour in the broth. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any meat bits stuck to the bottom. Add the rosemary, thyme, and cooking sherry. Stir again and increase heat so that the soup starts to simmer. 

Add the beef back to the pot and add the barley. Cover for 10-12 minutes. Remove lid and check barley for doneness. If not fully cooked, return lid for another few minutes. If done, add salt and pepper to taste. If the soup looks too thick (the barley has absorbed too much of  the liquid), add water and adjust seasonings. Serve very warm with some crusty bread! 

You could very easily make this soup vegetarian/vegan by nixing the beef and using vegetable broth. I think it would be just as delicious (double the mushrooms?), but I had beef lurking in my freezer. 

* One plus - you can see part of my great re-usable sandwich wrap and napkin combo, which you can buy on Etsy from a local shop!

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