Elin England, Eugene author of the locavore cookbook, Eating Close to Home: A Guide to Local Seasonal Sustenance in the Pacific Northwest, requested a recipe for a soup I mentioned a while ago, a thick, hearthy vegetarian winter squash, parsnip, and barley potage served at a friend’s Halloween party. It would be a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving table (or perhaps an after-Thanksgiving detox?) and good for any day that threatens snowflakes.
We ate the soup with a grating of romano cheese and some black pepper, while munching on nutty pumpkin seeds. The cheese adds umami, the savory “fifth taste” that balances out vegetarian one-pot suppers. As an alternative to cheese, I’d suggest adding bacon or a drizzle of smoked paprika oil or truffle salt. I might even dry-roast the barley before adding it to the soup by warming it up on a cast iron pan until just very ever-so-slightly browned.
If you can’t find pomegranate vinegar, a good substitute is apple cider vinegar or a slightly sweeter vinegar, such as Riesling vinegar.
Stay warm; eat soup!
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 heaping cup leeks, sliced thinly
- 2.5-3 lb. buttercup squash, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
- 4 medium-large parsnips, peeled, sliced, and cut into small chunks
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 6 cups stock or water
- 1/3 cup barley (I prefer dehulled to pearled)
- juice from 1/2 large lemon
- 1 teaspoon pomegranate vinegar or to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- optional: parsley, chile powder, crème fraîche, grated romano, etc.
Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot on medium heat, and add leeks. Sweat leeks (cook slow and low, without browning) until soft.
Add squash and parsnips and cook 2-3 minutes.* If using finely chopped ginger, add 1 tsp or to taste now. Add thyme.
Add liquid and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add barley. Cook 30-40 minutes or until vegetables have softened and barley is cooked.
Mash with potato masher until soup’s texture is uniform but still slightly chunky.
Add lemon and vinegar, aromatics (parsley, chile powder, etc.) if desired, and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust as needed. Garnish as desired with spice, creme fraiche, and/or cheese.
*I add salt late and I like less than other people. Conventional cooks [Ed: including yours truly, Culinaria Eugenius] would add some salt at the beginning, say 1/4-1/2 tsp, to help break down the vegetables.