Monday, January 19, 2009

Smoked Sausage and Barley Soup

This last week has not really been soup weather here in LA.  It doesn't change the fact that a bowl of soup makes a nice light meal.

What I like about soup is they are really pretty easy to make.  Even with limited kitchen skills any one can put a decent dinner on the table.  Of course ready made broth is the way to go if you want to cut corners and have the taste of an all day simmered soup.

To that end I've discovered on a bottom shelf at Fresh and Easy Market their "organic" low sodium Chicken Broth for $1.99 for 32 oz.  Such a deal - small dent on the old check book and big on flavor.  Can't go wrong with that combo.

I love Barley for lot of reasons.  Its just a little firmer on the bite than rice, a very mellow nutty taste and really versatile.  The one draw back you have to be aware of is that it is a tough grain to cook up as it is very dense so you do need to plan ahead a little when cooking with it.  

I keep a lot of staples on hand.  Everyone has their own for the pantry, fridge and freezer.  Smoked Sausage like a kielbasa is one I keep in the freezer as its a quick go to for dinner.  You can do it as a stand alone meat entree or in a soup, either way its good.

This soup idea got its start from the simple barley soup my Mom has made for years.  Its just a ham bone simmered down until the meat falls off the bone in a pot with some onion, water and barley.  Not exactly a fiber rich soup.  Its tasty enough but I really don't like picking meat off bones so that isn't really the meat option for soup as far as I am concerned.  Swapping out another smoked pork product would get the same flavors, adding in some more vegies help the fiber content which helps the old plumbing and of course herbage to up the savory flavor and I have a soup that's a winner around here in the winter.

Smoked Sausage and Barley Soup

  • 1 lb smoked sausage (like a kielbasa)
  • 1 large yellow onion - diced
  • 1 large carrot - slice
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2 32 oz cans Chicken Stock
  • 1 c barley
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1 T dried tarragon
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 t fennel seeds - crushed
  • 1 t fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 t liquid smoke
  • 12 oz bag spinach
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • green onion finely sliced
  • fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Place barley and 1 32 oz can of chicken stock in large pan.  Bring to boil then cover and simmer stirring occasionally 20 minutes.  At end of cooking turn heat off and allow barley to steep in the stock 1 hour with lid on.

Coat bottom of stock pot with olive oil and heat to shimmering over medium high heat.  Add diced onion,carrot and pepper cook about 5 minutes until onion is translucent. Slice sausage in 1/4 inch thick pieces. Add to pot along with parsley, tarragon, thyme and fennel. Cook until onions are beginning to caramelize and the sausage is browned about 10-15 minutes.  Stirring often.  When sausage is browned add the garlic and stir one minute to get the garlic cooked.

Add liquid smoke, remaining 32 oz chicken stock, barley and its remaining liquid.  Test for seasoning and add salt as needed.  Bring to boil and then reduce and simmer 10 minutes.  Add spinach, stir in and cook 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted but still bright green.

Garnish hot soup with sprinkle of Parmesan and sliced green onion.

Really important cook the spinach only until wilted but still bright green, the flavor is much better and the texture is not slimy at all.
"Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market" find, 32 oz low sodium organic chicken broth at $1.99 can't be beat.

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