Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Porcini mushroom barley soup (zuppa d'orzo ai porcini)

Here is a list of things I will not do at the beginning of this new year:

1) I will spare you my 2011 review post with photos and links to favorite recipes. YAWN. Was that me or you? My point being, I will not bore myself or you (at least not intentionally), so let’s just make a pact: you are more than welcome to browse around this blog whenever you feel like it and put key words into the search box if you are looking for something specific and I will keep linking to past posts here and there so you can discover some "hidden jems". This however doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the many review posts out there, I did. I just can’t be bothered.

2) I am not going to describe what I did and did not eat this holiday. First of all, because I pretty much ingurgitated all life forms present on this planet in the past weeks, animal and vegetable (or fruit in the form of fermented, liquid grapes), so making a list would be pretty unnecessary. Secondly, because you are probably sick of hearing that voice (be it in your head or in every post you have read in the last week) whine "I am sooo full, I ate too much, I think I will explode". Come on, really, you know you loved gorging yourself silly, you could've stopped any time, so just shut up and stop complaining already! And last but not least, because you don’t really care how many friggin' slices of smoked salmon, panettone or turkey I ate, since it is not your tushy that will expand a size as a result. Wait, is that a chocolate-covered-marzipan-Christmas-tree-shaped lump of cellulite on my right thigh or am I just seeing things?

3) I will not write a bunch of NYE resolutions because you just recently read my Thanksgiving list of what I am thankful for and you are still recovering. This is another win-win situation (see point 1): no stifling yawns on your side and no promises to live up to or public failures to admit to for moi in December 2012.

4) I am not posting a 120 calorie detox recipe made with goji berries and seaweed to make you feel better/less guilty. What I am posting is a recipe that is healthy (it includes most food groups: grains, healthy fats, vegetables, protein, dairy), comforting (because it is after all the height of winter for many of us) and easy (you probably don’t want to slave over a meal now that the cooking marathon is finally over). This dish is served in varying forms pretty much all over the Alps and can be made as a vegetarian or even a vegan dish by leaving out respectively one or two ingredients at most.

And...I wish you all a very Happy New Year! May 2012 be all you hoped for and thank you for following me into the new year.

500gr pearl barley
dried porcini mushrooms (small to medium sized bag)
100gr smoked pancetta or bacon
2 small or 1 large carrot
2 celery stalks
1 small onion
1 or 2 garlic cloves
5 cups ca. of vegetable stock
a handful of chopped fresh parsley
olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Pour enough olive oil into a pot to cover the bottom. Soak the dried mushrooms (a small bag will take you a long way) in a bowl with hot water, making sure you just cover them. Cut the garlic into large pieces (or mince it if you like a stronger flavor) and prepare a roughly chopped mirepoix with the onion, celery and carrots and cook until toothsome. I bought pre-diced smoked pancetta but you can just as easily chop up slices of bacon or ham if you have them handy. Cook with the vegetables until golden brown and then add in the barley, letting in toast in the hot oil for a couple of minutes. By now the mushrooms should have softened so you can squeeze out the excess liquid, making sure you do not discard it! It will give to the soup extra flavor. Roughly chop the mushrooms, add them in with the rest and pour in the soaking liquid and about 5 cups of water, depending on how thick and hearty you like your soup. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the barley is cooked through and serve with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, chopped parsley and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Skip the Parmesan cheese and/or the pancetta if you are making a vegetarian or vegan soup.


  1. First time here..You have lovely blog with awesome recipes…I am your new follower..Do check my blog if you have time..


  2. I should have known better than to read this post on an empty stomach and a super-empty fridge. ;)
    ps: I often put beans in this soup instead of bacon, just to hush up my sense of guilt.

    Your pictures are truly beautiful!

    Elisa, La Zia

  3. What a healthy and delicious soup. Perfect for the weather!

  4. Great recipe! Happy New Year!

  5. Hehe you are too funny! I shall quietly ignore that 120 calorie goji berry recipe in my drafts-just kidding! :P This looks like a much better way to deal with holiday pounds. And I'm with you, I just don't know where I'd start with a recap post of the best of 2011!

  6. Aarthi - nice to meet you and thank you!
    La Zia - thank you Elisa, bello conoscerti di persona ;o) I like your bean idea, a perfect protein source
    Asmita - Hi! so easy but so good, I agree
    Laurie - to you too Laurie
    Lorraine - it would be impossible to recap your best, they are all great!

  7. What a refreshing post, and a great start to 2012. Also? I've never heard the word "ingurgitated" but am now completely obsessed with it.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Happy New Year! I love this post - it's so refreshing. I fell into the 'picks from 2011' type post but I resolutely refuse to make any New Year's resolutions - I think 2012 is for the taking and I want to live every moment as it comes :-) This dish is full of the gorgeous flavours and simplicity which underlie your blog. Perfect.

  9. Meister - for a split second I worried that I had translated literally from Italian without noticing. As a food blogger, it is a handy verb to know hehe
    LL - if I had had the array of amazing recipes you baked up in 2011 I would have written a best picks list too! I enjoyed yours, also because we only started reading each other quite recently and this way I made sure to catch up on anything I may have missed. Truthfully, I was just being a lazy bum!

  10. gosh, I've been MIA so long!!!! You still crack me up! I always loved reading your posts however...never yawned :)) Love this beautiful bowl of food! Happy 2012!

  11. Happy New Year. Besser zu spaet als nie!
    Ich liebe Suppen!

  12. I have only subscribed to you fairly recently. I was sure by your writing that you were an Aussie, but checked and saw you are originally from NY. I found you through NQN and enjoy all your posts. Not a big fan of pearl barley though, sorry!
    Happy New Year anyway.

  13. Carolyn - good to hear from you and happy new year to you and family!
    Kirsten - vielen Dank, gleichfalls! Ich liebe auch Suppen,besonders im Winter.
    Anilou - hi, good to meet you "in person" ;o) Glad you enjoy and promise not to post any more barley recipes in the near future, hehe

  14. I love cereals soups! And with porcini! If only I could get porcini over here...

    Anyway gorgeous mountain shots! I'm just back to the plains of the midwest from skiing near Cortina and I miss the mountains so very much!


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