We always want to eat healthy food here at Casual Kitchen, but we don't want to have to suffer too much to do it. So whenever we find a healthy and hearty recipe that's both inexpensive, easy to make and really good, I'll be sure to bring it to my readers.
Today's Mushroom, Barley and Swiss Chard Soup is all of these things, and it has the added advantage of being preposterously healthy for you. It's yet another delicious classic from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine.
Recipes like this are excellent examples of the advantages of practicing partial vegetarianism: not only is vegetarian cuisine typically healthier and lower in fat than meat-centered meals, it's often much less expensive too. And in just one brief cooking session and one big soup pot, you can make a fully balanced meal and have plenty of easy leftovers for later in the week.
Mushroom, Barley and Leafy Greens Soup
(slightly modified from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine)
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional, but strongly suggested)
6 cups water
2 teaspoons dijon-style mustard
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup barley (see below)
3 Tablespoons fresh parsley
4-5 cups swiss chard (can substitute kale), chopped coarsely
1 lemon, cut into wedges (optional)
1) Heat oil in a large pot. Saute onions and garlic with spices for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add mushrooms, saute for another 4-5 minutes.
2) Add white wine, let simmer for 2 minutes or so. Then add all other ingredients except swiss chard and lemon. Simmer on low heat for 50 minutes.
3) Add swiss chard and simmer for another 10 minutes.
4) Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Ladle into bowls and (optional) squeeze a wedge of lemon over your soup just before eating.
A few quick recipe notes:
1) Barley. Here's a grain you don't see all that often in everyday recipes; in fact, unless your grocery store has a whole grains or health food section, you might have to make a side trip to your local health food store to find it. Our local health food store carried two pound bags of barley at a fairly reasonable $2.99.
2) Kale or swiss chard (either red or green varieties) are pretty much interchangeable for this dish. These are some of the healthiest greens in the entire produce section, with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants--and of course lutein for good eye health.
3) We had a bit of a dispute here as to whether to bother with the lemon wedge. My bias is to skip it--you can save yourself an extra step and 66 cents. Laura, however, preferred the subtle tang that the lemon juice added to the soup.
4) Finally a word on costs: This soup should cost roughly $8.00, which works out to a laughably cheap price of $1.00 per serving. Another of the often unsung advantages of vegetarian food!
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