After three beef pot pies have their glorious moment on the decks, the last thing you can do with a Sunday night beef stew is make soup. If you take it too far beyond that, then you really are going to have to end the week with Gerber. My niece is still on formula, and well, we know how I feel about overly-processed meat products.
Though a slurp-for-slurp comparison of my soup against Campbell's would have made for an interesting post (no seriously, it would have), it's been a very long month of beefy beefiness. Let's just talk barley, since I now have an entire bag of barley in my pantry. Yay.
Barley is my new grain of choice because I am finding that it's already part of my diet in the form of...beer. Unfortunately, since barleycorns are all mashed, boiled, and fermented with yeast, beer can't really be considered a whole grain; and since I don't eat rice, this new barley is helping me in my daily efforts to remain regular. And who could pass up a glittery grain that's called "pearl?" (Not to mention that it's scientific name is Hordeum Vulgare).
Yes, pearl barley is slightly more processed than regular, straight-off-the-stalk (or whatever it's grown on) barley. At least it's barley, and for now, hull-less, bran-less barley stripped of most of its fiber, phosphorus, and potassium is good enough for me. Anything is a step up from plain old polished white rice. "Bahp" if you're nasty (or Korean).
Speaking of Seoul, Koreans drink bori-cha ("bori"=barley, "cha"=tea), which is made by steeping roasted barley in hot water. Wow. Who knew that besides beer, barley really was already part of my diet! If you ever go to a Korean restaurant and have a ceramic mug of nutty, rich brown tea, it's more than likely bori-cha. Then again, ohk-soo-soo cha (roasted corn tea) looks exactly the same, so calm your colon down. Check to make sure. I believe some other cultural cuisines also make tea from barley, but that's for me to know and you to find out.
This tiny 16 ounce bag of barley is a hell of a lot of barley, so I know I'll be using it in a lot of recipes as a substitute for rice. Pearl barley is simply simmered in a 1:4 ratio of barley to water, with a ½ tsp. salt for every ½ c. of uncooked pearl barley. It's supposed to cook, covered, for 45 minutes, but mine took a little less time. Then again, I am very impatient, and was probably enjoying a slightly chewier barley than normal. Hopefully, barley will cook in my little Zojirushi, but that is TBD.
If the barley doesn't cook in the trusty elephant, this very tattered and very worn cookbook on my nightstand has a recipe for cooking barley in the microwave oven. LOL! Yes, on page 246, there is a "recipe" for microwaved barley. The ratios for barley to water are slightly tipped toward the water, but the cooking time is the same. It's the same! I thought the only advtange of using a microwave oven was speed and accuracy (or is that just for standardized testing?) What is the point of cooking barley in the microwave oven if it requires the exact same effort to cook it on the stove top?!?! In fact, I think it actually requires more time and effort because you are supposed to microwave the barley in the covered casserole dish on high first, sit down, start blogging, then get up and walk back over to the kitchen again five minutes later to reduce the power to 50% and microwave for another 45 minutes. Does a microwave's timer even go that high? That's right. I didn't think so.
But I'm still going to make the barley "risotto" in the cookbook, which if we're getting all technical with high-tech equipment like a microwave oven, it should be barlotto.
Beef Barley Soup Recipe
This one is so easy it doesn't even require a real recipe.
Rinse 1 c. of barley until the water runs clear. Bring barley along with 1½ c. water and 1 c. beef stock to a boil, then turn down heat to low and simmer. Cook barley for approximately 40 minutes, until soft and chewy.
Add additional beef stock to the leftover beef stew as well as a few different herbs. Add any additional vegetables (mushrooms are pretty standard) and as much cooked barley as your colon needs, bring to a boil, then let cook for 10-20 minutes to let the additional vegetables cook and the starch from the barley thicken the soup slightly.
I also just realized that adding a 15 oz. can of tomatoes (crushed by hand to make it semi-homemade) with the juice would be good. Dammit! *shakes fist at self* I'll do that next time.
Serve steaming hot.