Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friuli Basil Soup with Vegetables, Beans, and Barley

 The rain here in SLO is taunting me. For the past couple of weeks, it seems like weather is beautiful during the week, and when the weekend comes, there is not a patch of blue to be seen. The storm here completely blotted out the passing of the much feared storm moon, or the supermoon. In case you were wondering what a supermoon is, it is the biggest and brightest moon there is, and only comes about once every 20 years. March 19th, 2011 marked the coincidence of a full moon with the moon's closest rotation to the earth based on its eliptical movement. What a day for rain! 

There were also many prediction of it being a super moon of doom. With the 8.9 earthquake in Japan ocurring only a week ago, I wonder what else that moon has planned. For now, I will just stay inside and hide. . .  and eat soup! Ah, now the truth comes out. I will use any excuse to talk about food. If I were the cookie monster, we would be trying to decide what cookie the supermoon is. But that is another post.

The soup that I made comes from my Italian lady. I lovingly call her that. She has the most wonderful way of writing, and describing the most intriguing of dishes. If you buy one of Marcella Hazan's many books, you will never be dissappointed. She delivers authentic Italian recipes from all over Italy. Not just the typical pasta and tomato sauce dishes we think are Italian. Some recipes can be lengthy, but are usually easy to tweak. This soup calls for soaking and rinsing, and I am much too impatient for all that. I have adapted this recipe to make it a little quicker, but you may still need to prepare a little ahead of time.

When you eat this soup, you will feel like you are eating an entire garden. But unlike eating plain vegetables, the addition of beans and barley makes this a complete meal, that is very satisfying.
Friuli Basil Soup with Vegetables, Beans, and Barley

1/2 cup Barley
3 medium Zucchini
1 1/2 lb Swiss chard, rainbow or regular
2 medium Potatoes
1 medium Onion
1 medium Carrot
1 cup Celery, including leaves
1 Clove garlic
1 cup dry Cranberry, Cannelini, or any White beans or 1 12 oz. can of these beans
1/4 lb Green beans
1/2 cup Frozen peas
1/2 cup Fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 T Butter (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Cook the dry beans ahead of time according to the package directions. I like to throw dry beans right into the crock pot slow cooker on low without soaking them. I do this in the morning so they are ready by dinner.

Put the barley into a small pot with 1 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes until barley is tender.

In the meantime you can get your vegetables ready. Clean and chop the chard, including the stem, unless it is too fibrous. Clean and chop the zucchini, carrot, onion, garlic, celery, and potatoes. Place all of these vegetables into a large soup pot with 2 1/2 cups of water. Sprinkle a little salt over the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. After 15 minutes, grind pepper over the vegetables and recover. Cook the vegetables until soft, about 5 to 15 minutes more. Puree all the vegetables with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender.

Cook the green beans in a pot of boiling water (or in the crockpot to conserve pots!) for about 5 minutes. Make sure you don't overcook them. Add the peas in the hot water with the green beans at the end until they are heated through. Drain, and add the green beans, the peas, the barley, and the cranberry beans to the hot vegetable puree. Stir in the butter if you are using it, and the chopped fresh basil. Ladle into bowls, and add just a few drops of olive oil on the top to garnish.