Zucchini Mushroom Tomato Barley Soup
A few weeks ago I was asked to prepare a dinner for the Jewish holiday Tu B'Shevat (a kind of Arbor Day). I usually hate tomato barley soup, as it always feels too sweet and heavy. I looked all over the internet for barley soup recipes, as I wanted to incorporate the seven species into some part of the meal (barley, wheat = bread, olives = olive tapenade, jam bars for the figs, pomegranate juice and then wine for the grapes). I didn't find one that was quite right (Isa Chandra Moskowitz's was the closest, but we're in the dead of winter and I didn't have the fresh herbs!), so I made this one up.
I got lucky--it was wonderful. It was somehow tangy and hearty at the same time, filling bur not heavy. While I didn't write down what I did, here's an approximation: I first sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil in the bottom of the pot, then threw in some finely chopped mushrooms. When the mushrooms released their water and cooked down (2 minutes or so), I added the chopped zucchini. I seasoned this mixture with sage, basil, salt and pepper. After letting this cook for a few minutes, I added the barley (a cup or a cup and a half?) and then a large can of tomatoes a bit later. I was given a jar of Kosher Better Than Bouillon--I made the broth first and then added it to the barley-veggie mixture. At first I wasn't crazy about the flavor of the plain broth, but it really worked for the flavor of the soup. I let the whole soup simmer--covered--for about 30 minutes. I recommend google-ing how to cook barley if you are worried, but this soup is hard to mess up and is delicious! Especially if served with a warm loaf of french bread....