Thursday, February 14, 2013
HAM, BEANS AND BARLEY SOUP
THE BEST YOU WILL EVER TASTE!
A friend of mine, Laura of Art From Trails End has a really unique blog which includes arts and crafts, recipes and beautiful Pacific scenery. Recently she posted a picture of herself cooking her award winning chili. Naturally, I asked for the recipe. Laura told me that when she cooks, she basically cooks “in the zone.” I immediately knew what she meant, as I’m sure most of you do. When you are ‘in the zone’ there is nothing you can’t do. It’s as though the creative muse has completely taken over, allowing you to choose exactly the ingredients and the right amount to use. This is true of any medium by the way, whether it be art or music or theater. You concentrate, stay focused and before long, you reach perfection. That is what happened when I created the recipe for my Ham, Beans and Barley Soup. Please forgive me for bragging but I have to say, this is the best soup of this type I have ever tasted. For those of you who don’t know about the way I cook. I'm like a mad scientist in my kitchen. I try different recipes dozens of times til I figure out the way to make them delicious. The results of this soup is no exception.
Sofritto in Italian Means Well Sauteed Vegetables Usually of Carrot, Onion and Celery
It’s always a bit difficult to write a recipe down when cooking this way, as Laura also told me about her chili. I am going to do my best with hopes that all of you will improvise and add your own touches to the recipe. Usually when I make a new recipe, I like to cook it exactly as written and later add my own touch.
As the Soup Starts to Simmer
I promise, you will have rave reviews with this scrumptious, peasant like, comfort soup.
2 T. or a bit more of olive oil and 5 garlic cloves, chopped medium plus 2 more garlic cloves to be squeezed into soup later
4 boxes of the 32 oz chicken broth-your own if available-I like Trader Joe’s brand but others will do.
2 or 3 large smoked ham hocks
About 3 slabs of ham found in packages-about ½” thick or, if you have left over ham that’s even better.
A sofritto: A sofritto is the vegetable beginnings of a lot of Italian dishes. It adds the much needed flavor you need for soups: For this you need 2 or 3 carrots, 3 or 4 stalks of celery and 1 or 2 onions. I use at least a cup of each and sometimes even more than a cup of the onions.
½ jar of already cooked northern beans or cannolini beans or about 3 cups. I prefer the jarred kind and as a matter of fact, it is important that you use the kind in glass jar. If you can’t find the glass jar kind, I guess it will be ok to use canned, although I never have.
3 bay leaves
3 stalks of fresh herb or dried like parsley, majoram.
Salt and pepper
Barley- quick cooking kind-about half a box or 3 cups
l. Make sofritto: Place 2 or more T. of olive oil in large soup pan. Heat a bit before adding garlic. Cook garlic for about a minute. Add carrots, onions and celery and slow cook for about 10 minutes stirring often until vegetables are somewhat soft.
2. Add 3 boxes of 32 oz. chicken broth, ham hocks, herbs including bay leaves, ham that you have cut into about 1 or 2” pieces after removing the rinds if needed. Put lid on leaving small opening. Bring soup to boil and then turn heat down and slow cook for about 2 hours or until all vegetables and ham is cooked. You could also add the ham after the first hour of cooking if you prefer.
3. Remove ham hocks from pot and add back any meat left on them. With a garlic press squeeze 2 cloves of garlic into soup. Spoon in the northern beans with a lot of the liquid in the jar. About 2 cups, maybe more. Simmer for about 15 minutes and then add about half a box of barley or 2 ½ cups. Bring heat up high and once boiling again, put on low heat and cook til barley is soft and cooked. Don’t forget to taste many times along the way. Someone should invent taster spoons for chefs. Maybe they already have? Constantly season to taste.
This makes a large pot of soup that you can eat now and freeze any leftover. Wait til you taste this! I think the combination of beans and barley absolutely make this dish.
The soup goes together very quickly, depending on how fast you can chop vegetables. Also, it is a bonus not to have to soak and cook northern beans. The jarred variety works just perfectly.
As Julia Child would say, “Bon Appetit” Or in Italian it should be “Bon Appetito”
After Soup has Simmered for Over Two Hours