A short while ago, I sent out a plea for help. My gardens were producing Swiss chard faster than I could use it. I was washing it, blanching and freezing it in order to preserve those precious leaves. I do not believe in wasting anything but I could not cook it up fast enough. I have stuffed it, sautéed it, deep-fried it and I was coming to the end of my creative ideas. Sometimes when you do things repeatedly, you cannot conjure what to do next.
Several internet friends answered my plea. The Internet might be my idol for that reason. Ask and you receive. I am so grateful. I received many ideas, which I used, and some that I had done before and filed. However, my internet friend, Kathy Wilka, sent one I hadn’t tried. I knew her as a politically involved person not as a cook. So I was aptly surprised when she sent me a recipe for my chard abundance.
What follows is my adaptation of Kathy’s recipe for Mushroom, Barley and Leafy Greens Soup. It is a soup, which after searching for its origin, I found was attributed to Jay Solomon’s book, Vegetarian Soup Cuisine: 125 Soups and Stews from Around the World.
I am, however, a cook who looks at a recipe and immediately adds my own signature to it. So, I took the bones of the recipe and altered it to my tastes. The result was a sublime combination, based on an already sturdy structure that was pleasing, nutritious and filling.
My Mushroom Barley and Swiss Chard Soup, adapted from Jay Solomon via Kathy Wilka
2 Tablespoons high quality olive oil
3 small leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
Several sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
12 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved and sliced (stems included)
½ cup dry white wine (necessary, not optional)
6 cups homemade vegetable stock (store bought works but it might kill you with additives.)
3 teaspoons Amora Dijon Mustard (expensive and imported so substitute with a good Dijon
you can afford.)
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, strings removed and diced
½ cup barley, toasted in a dry fry pan
¼ cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley, roughly chopped
5 cups Swiss chard or Swiss chard with beet greens, stems removed, then coarsely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges for garnish
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onions with spices for 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté a minute longer.
Add the white wine and let it simmer with the vegetables for 2-3 minutes to infuse them and evaporate somewhat. Then add the remaining ingredients except the Swiss chard (or other greens) and lemon wedges.
Simmer over low heat for 50 minutes, partly covered. You are not trying to reduce it; you want the flavors to meld.
Next, add the Swiss chard (or whatever greens you are using) and simmer for another 8-10 minutes until the greens wilt but do not fade to dark army green.
Let the pot stand, heat off for 5 minutes before serving. Ladle into bowls and squeeze a lemon wedge into each.
Add a side salad and a hunk of homemade bread for a heartier meal. The soup is wonderful as a stand-alone dinner too.
Thank you, Kathy. I have gallons more Swiss chard and chard to contend with in the coming days so I am hoping this soup freezes well. In fact, I am sure it does.