Mushroom barley soup.

fullsizeoutput_5071This is the last weekend of February and, while is was warm and sunny a couple of days last week, we are going to have a cold, rainy, dark weekend.  Perfect for a warming soup.

Mushroom barley soup.  A brilliant combination…but with a twist.  I don’t like the heaviness of the traditional beef broth in this soup, so I use chicken broth instead.  Homemade is best but a good quality purchased broth works fine.  If you want to go totally meatless, use a favorite homemade or purchased vegetable broth.

leek (or onion)



First put about a cup of pearled barley into a 2 cups of water.  The water should cover the barley by at least an inch.  The water is to soften the barley and to rinse it.  Often barley can get “slimy” but not if you soak it first.IMG_7518

Next cut up two or three carrots, two ribs of celery, and a leek (a small onion is a fine substitute here).  Saute the vegetables for three to five minutes in about three tablespoons of butter.  Just to get them soft.

Next add about a pound of cleaned and chopped mushrooms.  I remove the stems but really only the hard end of the root needs to be removed.  A variety of mushrooms is great but so is a pound of favorite mushrooms.  This is a great soup to use up all those extra mushrooms sitting in the refrigerator   Stir the vegetables and mushrooms around and let them saute for another minute or so.

Next pour in about 4 cups of broth and then add about 2 cups of water.  Any broth is acceptable.  Beef, chicken, vegetable.  I prefer chicken.  Chicken broth makes a lighter, buttery broth.  It’s all about what flavor is your favorite.

Stir the pot.  Completely.  On medium heat, bring the soup up to a boil.  Then put a lid on it and simmer on a very low setting for 3 to 4 hours.  If you have to leave the soup, leave the lid on, turn the heat off, and turn it on again when you return to it.  Stir it.

About a half hour before serving, taste for salt.  Salt to your preference.

This is a delicious and comforting soup served with a crusty bread and good butter or with a sharp cheddar cheese and crackers or with a favorite cheese melted over that good crusty bread.fullsizeoutput_5072

And, as always, soup is better the next day!  You’ll be warmed for days!


Fish cakes and beans.

My husband hails from New England. Braintree, Massachusetts to be precise.  He was born and raised a good Irish Roman Catholic boy.  Sadly, both of his parents passed away when he was in his early twenties.  He has a small box of photos and a few household things and his memories.

We are now in the season of Lent.  My husband is Roman Catholic.  I am Byzantine Catholic.  My family tradition is to not eat meat quite a few more days than was my husband’s tradition. But not meat on Friday.  That’s how we both were raised.  That’s what we remember.

In an effort to add to my Lenten meatless repertoire I asked my husband what dishes his mother made to feed her five children on Fridays…not just during Lent, but every Friday.

Fish cakes and beans.  The answer was swift and definite.

I used to prepare fish cakes years ago but somehow got out of the habit.  While it is a simple dish there are a number of steps to it.

8 oz. (a cup) of cooked fish….like cod, flounder, salmon.
8 oz. (a cup) of cooked white potatoes.
1 tablespoon dried parsley.
2 tablespoons butter.
3 tablespoons cream or milk.
salt to taste.

1. Steam the fish until flaky. About ten minutes once the water boils.IMG_7570
2. Peel, cut, and boil two medium to large white potatoes.IMG_7564
3.  Flake the steamed fish in a bowl.

4.  Once the potatoes are done so that a sharp knife easily pierces them, but they don’t completely crumble, drain, place in a bowl with butter, dried parsley, and a splash of cream or milk…about 3 tablespoons and smash.  Do not make super smooth mashed potatoes.  Your cakes simply won’t hold any kind of shape if your potatoes are too smooth and soft.

5.  Mix fish with potato mixture.

6.  Shape into patties.
7.  Dip the patties into breadcrumbs or panko.

8.  Melt butter in a frying pan.
9.  Place the fish cakes in the hot pan.

10.  At this point everything is cooked.  Let the patties fry for about 3 or 4 minutes on medium until a crust is formed.  Carefully flip over and crisp the other side for another 3 or four minutes. At this point, if dinner has to hold for a short while, the patties can go in a very low (300 degrees F) oven for 15 minutes or so.  The patties are soft and, even if they don’t stay in their shape…are completely delicious and a warming comfort food.IMG_7590

My husband likes his fish cakes served with baked beans.  He likes a lot of things served with baked beans.  Easy to do.  Easy to please.  I open a can of his favorite brand, squirt in some ketchup and mustard and put them in the oven to bake until they are hot and bubbly (about 30 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven).  I put the beans in the oven first…and then make the fish cakes.   But, if you are very pressed for time an open can of beans with ketchup and mustard and a little water heats up just fine in a pot on the stove.
We had this dinner for the first time in a very long time.  The cakes were delicious.  Crispy.  Buttery.  A very nice Friday night dinner for two.