Monthly Archives: June 2016

Soup #4: Greens and Grains

phoebe it was disgusting because. the barley taste disgusting .the barley looks disgusting. the barley feels disgusting.

Jess: This soup looks nothing like soup; it’s more like a fancy salad. When I looked over the recipe ahead of making it on Thursday, I was pleased to discover that we already had almost all the ingredients. I’d need another bag of barley, since I was doubling the recipe (serves 2), and I’d get a few more “flaked” almonds in case ours were too old. We’re fortunate to be participating in the Sanchez community garden, where the spinach is bright green and bushy. We can take as much as we need, and you can’t even tell it’s been harvested.

Hot chicken stock and a cup of pearled barley.

Hot chicken stock and a cup of pearled barley.

Shredded spinach and tahini mixture.

Shredded spinach and tahini mixture.

This is a truly simple recipe to prepare, although we were all hard-pressed to call it soup. It didn’t have any broth! You toast the quinoa and cook it with the farro (alternatively pearl barley or freekeh) in stock and then use the rest of the ingredients for topping.

Simmering barley.

Simmering barley.

A few recipe frustrations:

1. The written recipe says that the farro will take about 10 minutes to cook if it’s semipearled. I chose barley instead of farro (as allowed in the recipe) because I already had some and because it was 4 times as cheap to buy a little bit more. However, when I looked at the package, I discovered it was going to take 45 minutes to cook. It would’ve been helpful to mention that in the recipe more specifically than “check the package directions, as cooking times vary.”

2. After the grains are cooked, the recipe says to “turn off the heat, add the kale and leave it to sit until wilted…. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the kale and tahini sauce…” I spent quite a while deciding if I was supposed to scoop the spinach (an approved substitute for kale, and free from the garden) off the top or do some magic to get the grains into the bowl with the spinach somehow on top. A quick “remove the wilted spinach to a bowl” would’ve helped.

3. It’s not the right season for pomegranates. However, while trying to figure out if I could get them anyway, I learned that the seeds are called arils. Cool.

I set out bowls of shaved almonds, the tahini paste, craisins (to substitute for pomegranate arils), and the wilted spinach. I didn’t bother trying to find/buy red amaranth or purple shiso, even though they look lovely in the photo. They were listed as optional.

The consistency of the barley was just wonderful, dense and toothy. I skipped the craisins (I don’t like to mix sweet and savory), but the nuts, spinach, and tahini were all delicious. The nuts added even more crunch, and the spinach added a fresh, vegetable-y taste. The tahini was surprisingly bitter, but a few grinds of sea salt helped immensely. Dave pronounced it our second-best recipe so far. Benjamin ate three bowls (he particularly loved the spinach). You can see Phoebe’s judicious and balanced take above. (I swear we’ll find one she likes!)


I listed this as both “soup with meat” and “vegan” because I used chicken stock instead of vegetable. That simple substitution will quickly make this vegan.

To write her comment, Phoebe learned to use the copy/paste function. Even if she never eats Greens and Grains again, she’ll be using copy/paste her whole life.

In related soup news, I had a scoop of leftover barley in the middle of leftover watercress soup for lunch today. It was, frankly, wonderful! The soup had matured from its previous watery, brothy flavor to the slightly peppery herbal flavor it’s clearly supposed to have. Adding the barley gave it some consistency. I’m glad I have one more serving of each left for tomorrow.

Soup #3: Watercress Soup with Crab Toasts

Phoebe:it wos dscusdeg

Jess: This was the soup I’d been waiting for, after browsing quickly through my new book on Mother’s Day. It was bright green and was supposed to be served with crab paté. I suspected the family wouldn’t be too excited about the color or the watercress—as you see above, I was right.

Fortunately I had read far enough ahead to make a shopping list, so I bought a whole chicken at King Soopers. This soup calls for a quart of chicken broth, and I didn’t think I had that much in the freezer. Tuesday night I stuck the chicken (still a bit frozen) into the crock pot I got for my wedding from Aunt Nancy’s stuffed tiger, Hermetroid. (It might be better not to ask.) I added a carrot, a stalk of celery, and half an onion. I learned somewhere along the line that you want to include the onion skin when you make chicken stock, since it helps dye the stock yellow. After 45 minutes of simmering away, some of the innards had floated out of the chicken; I hadn’t been able to get them out while it was partially frozen. I left the chicken out to cool for 20 minutes while the stock bubbled. I pulled the meat off the chicken, stored it in a Tupperware, and put the carcass back into the pot. I let it simmer for a while longer and then turned off the heat; it would cool down overnight. Wednesday morning I set aside a quart of stock and then bagged up the rest to freeze in 2-cup increments.

The recipe called for crab paté, which is obviously something people buy in little jars in England. I chose a recipe online called Karen’s Life-of-the-Party Crab Paté. Later in the week I realized that the Life of the Party was supposed to set up over several hours, so it wouldn’t work all that well to put the whole meal together Thursday night, as I’d been planning. Instead, we ordered some pizza and watched Nova. Thursday night I put together the paté, a somewhat disgusting-looking blend of cream cheese, condiments, and (in my case, not Karen’s) imitation crab flakes. You had to knead this concoction, ball it onto a plate, and let it sit while you mixed together a coating of butter, milk, and Knox gelatin. That liquid was then drizzled over the paté ball, where it immediately hardened, sort of like Smucker’s Magic Shell. Back into the fridge to sit overnight. I also baked some lemon squares, in case we had to turn to those for sustenance.

King Soopers hadn’t stocked watercress, so I’d stopped at Sprouts on Thursday to get some. (How do people make tea sandwiches?) It turned out that Sprouts actually had Upland Cress (isn’t that a Billy Joel song?), so I investigated. The Great Google said that the two were very similar, down to the fresh, peppery taste. That sounded quite good.


The soup itself was pretty easy to make. You sauté onion and potato in butter and then simmer them in the chicken stock.



In the meantime, you pick the watercress leaves from the stems. That part was fussy and felt like it took forever. Dave pitched in at the end, which sped it up a bit. You simmer the watercress stems in the broth and then take everything off the heat to add the watercress leaves.


It all goes immediately into the blender to produce a vivid green broth. Mine was a more electric green than the photo in the book, which was fairly exciting, considering how shocking the photo looks.


I poured the soup into Pyrex ramekins so we’d be able to admire it while we ate. I served the lumpy, glistening crab paté with the leftover Viva crackers from last week.


The soup tasted exactly like chicken stock, though it had a bit more body. I didn’t get a sense of the peppery herbs. It was enlivened by salt and pepper, but not much. It was still brighter in hue than flavor. Benjamin ate two bowls and about six servings of paté. Phoebe ate an obligatory spoonful and switched to Cup-a-Soup. As far as the paté goes, while I found the mixed-in condiments and the chunks of crab tasty, the cream cheese ruined the whole thing. Dave was ambivalent, leaning slightly toward “ick.” We all agreed not to have this one again. It did make me feel terribly British!