I’ve been off the mark for the last week as far as dinners go. The change in the weather here came on harder and faster than I had anticipated, leaving me in a considerable amount of pain, and while I cobbled together a few decent meals last week, none of them really lived up to what I hoped they would be.
So when the soup I was working on last night looked like yet another disappointment midway through the cooking process, I was annoyed. I had envisioned a rich and chunky roasted tomato soup, but the volume of tomatoes I roasted was too small for the amount of liquid I had simmering away on the stovetop. Inspiration struck, though, in the form of a container of leftover cooked barley hanging out in the fridge. I often cook extra when I make beans and grains like this – they’re good for quick, savory breakfasts, alone or topped with an egg, or, as here, as a last-minute addition to a soup or stew. The barley was just the thing to give my rustic soup the right texture, and you can never go wrong with adding another helping of a whole grain to your day.
The soup was built on a foundation of shallots, chopped and softened in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt. I added a spoonful of Pimenton de la Vera, stirred it through and let it get toasty, then added a splash of dry vermouth, the liquid from a big can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, and a pint of homemade chicken stock (you could, of course, substitute veg stock or even water here). As for the tomatoes that had been in the can, those were roasting in the oven at 450 degrees, halved and sprinkled with salt, dried marjoram, and a drizzle of olive oil, alongside a couple of peeled whole garlic cloves.
When the tomatoes were roasty and caramelized and the garlic meltingly soft, I pulled them out of the oven and crushed them gently with a potato masher before adding them to the soup. At that point, I added the barley (about 2 cups, cooked), let the soup cook for a few more minutes, tasted for seasoning, then served it up accompanied with a salad of mixed red leaf and butter lettuce and goat-cheese topped croutons. This may not have been the meal I had envisioned, but it was surprisingly good.
I don’t generally bring politics up on this blog, but as you’re probably aware, we in the States have an election going on today. There’s a lot at stake, notably the right of friends to continue to have their marriages recognized as legal and valid, providing more humane living conditions for farm animals, and closer to home, the issue of preserving farmland and open spaces (that last link is an audio one). If you are eligible to do so, regardless of what your personal beliefs are, I’d urge you to get out there today and exercise your right to vote.