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Barley Lentil Soup with Green Garlic & Parsley

Barley Lentil Soup

This is a season-straddling soup. A soup into which I stirred a generous heap of fresh parsley and finely minced green garlic just before serving. And it felt springy and bright despite being a robust soup at heart. I love this time of year when the garden starts producing green sprouts of various kinds that quickly invigorate the more wintry items in my pantry. Green garlic is in all the farmers markets here this time of year and is one of the great delights of early spring. You can use almost the whole plant and it is tender and much sweeter and mellower than the mature clove. I put it in most anything this time of year, especially with eggs or stirred into Greek yogurt for a topping or on a sandwich.

I’ve heard mention of barley a lot recently and was inspired to cook up this combination by the wonderful Camas Country Mill folks who package their own lentils and barley with a spice mix and supply their local food bank with these super nourishing one-dish meal packets.

I did not have Camas Country’s lentils and barley but had French green lentils and hulless barley from the bulk aisle at a local grocery store. I was afraid the barley, even though a hulless variety, would take longer to cook than the lentils. So I cooked a big pot of it in a plenty of salty water for about 20 minutes. It was actually almost tender by then and I forgot about it off the heat for a  few hours. It softened further but still withstood the 20 minutes in the pot with the lentils later on and turned out perfectly tender. Now I have plenty on hand for a “risotto” or other soup or salad but suggest you just start the barley 10 minutes before the lentils if you don’t have it on hand pre-cooked or pearled.

Lentil Barley Soup with Green Garlic & Parsley

If you have precooked barley (see above) you can add it at the same time you add the lentils. If you have pearled barley you can add it at the same time as well. If you have hulless barley, add it and the broth after you’ve cooked the aromatics for a while and then bring that to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes and then add the lentils.

1 cup French green lentils or other small lentils that keep their shape
2 cups cooked barley (see above) or 3/4 – 1 cup draw/raw (hulless or pearled)
2-3 carrots, well scrubbed and diced
1 onion, diced
2 slices bacon, diced (optional)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon thyme
5-6 cups water or veggie broth or stock (if you’re using precooked barley you’ll need just under 5 cups)
good olive oil for drizzling
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cups of finely chopped parsley
3 thin green garlic stalks, trimmed of just the root end and any ratty greens, finely minced

Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, thyme, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and bacon and sauté, stirring frequently for about 7-8 minutes or until everything has softened and is just beginning to brown. Add the lentils, broth or water and barley (see  headnote) and a 3/4 teaspoon of salt if your broth is not salty. Bring to a bowl and then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. At this point the lentils should be tender but not yet falling apart. Stir in the parsley and green garlic, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and cook for just another minute or two. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil.

Happy cooking, happy spring, happy Easter!

 

Squash Rice Fritters + Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Previously frozen brown rice thawed and mixed with roasted squash and seasonings  make for a delicious fritter.

Previously frozen brown rice thawed and mixed with roasted squash and seasonings makes for a delicious fritter.

Mid last week I had one section of that beautiful, giant squash leftover. I had unearthed a bag of cooked, frozen rice–rice that I had almost dumped on the compost because I inadvertently left the burner on when I went to pick up my son and found very, very soft though not burned, short-grain brown rice upon my eventual return. In the back of my mind lurked a comment my mother had made about rice patties held together with mashed squash.

Finally, I probably shouldn’t have been cooking at all, let alone cutting lumpy, hard, winter squash into wedges, as I had cut my finger rather badly two days earlier cutting onions.  So I was clumsily operating one-handed, however, the resulting fritters with their cool, tangy sauce (that allowed the sad cilantro in the crisper to go out with a bang), were good, really good. I even invited neighbors over last-minute to share the fritter bounty.

Some minced green onion, ground cumin, a bit of grated sharp cheddar and an egg were all I added and then I pan-fried them in just a little olive oil until deeply golden brown on both sides. I took my time–the cut has slowed me down just a bit–and let them cook about 7 minutes on either side which I think was the key to them sticking together and developing such a good crust.

The variations on this basic idea are once again manifold. I can image most any fresh herb, in great quantity or other spices, other grains or even other mashed vegetables as long as they’re not too watery. I’m sure sweet potatoes would be good or carrots, etc.

Patties in the making

Patties in the making

Cilantro yogurt sauce--simple toss a half bunch or so of cilantro in a food processor with some Greek yogurt, a clove or garlic, a little lemon juice and some salt and you have the perfect topping/sauce for most anything.

Cilantro yogurt sauce–simply toss a half bunch or so of cilantro (stems and all) in a food processor with some Greek yogurt, a clove or garlic, a little lemon juice and some salt and you have the perfect topping/sauce for most anything.

Squash Rice Fritters

I loved the combination of these fritters and my all-purpose cilantro yogurt sauce. I adapted it a bit to keep it thicker, more like a topping than a sauce. I omitted the olive oil and just used Greek yogurt (whole milk if you can), half a bunch of cilantro (stems and all), clove of garlic, lemon juice, and salt to taste.

I actually think my overcooked rice (see above) served me very well texture-wise, though I’m sure it will work with properly cooked rice too! And quantities, as per usual, are just suggestions.

Serves 4 (more or less)

2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked, mashed winter squash
1 large egg
2 scallions, finely chopped (greens and all) or a shallot or chunk of onion
1/2 cup (or more) grated sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste (at least 1 teaspoon of salt)
Olive oil for pan-frying

Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Shape them into patties with your hands. I wouldn’t make them too small since they won’t stick together as well. You can see my size in the photo above.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Place as many patties in the skillet as you can without crowding. Fry for at least 5 minutes per side to develop a good crisp crust but be careful not to burn. You’ll likely  need to turn your burner down to medium. Repeat on the other side. Serve with a generous dollop of cilantro yogurt sauce.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. I’ve posted two new classes: Strong Food: Fun, Simple, Veggie-centric Dishes for the Whole Family and Using Your Prepared Pantry: What do with Frozen Rice, Beans and other Goodies in your Freezer the latter in part inspired by the above impromptu recipe. Would love to have you join me.