Tuesday Dinner: Mushroom-Barley

Mushroom-Barley with Parslied Sour Cream • Romaine with Beets & Celery • Levain Rolls • Citrus Mess

I made winter vegetable lasagna for a catering client last week. I was sautéing mushrooms for the lasagna, I thought about how delicious they were but how I rarely cooked or ate them for myself because neither of my kids like them. And that’s where you guys come in! You guys are my reason, since apparently I need one, to cook mushrooms for the second week in a row.

Mushroom-barley soup is one of my favorites. Barley has such a wonderful texture, both soft and toothsome. The trick to making the most of mushrooms’ flavor is to cook them until they exude all their juices, then keep cooking them until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms start to brown. That leaves a valuable, flavor-rich coating on the bottom of the pan (called “fond” in French); when you deglaze the pan with a liquid—I used white wine for today’s soup—that flavor is carried through the whole dish. The soup is delicious as is, but I like it even better with a dollop of sour cream stirred in.

The salad today has celery, lots of it. I bought it from Adriana on Sunday; her celery is so much better than grocery store celery—and I like grocery store celery!—that it’s worth featuring. It makes me think of celery as a starring-role vegetable, rather than just lumping it in with other supporting-role aromatics. We’ve got Adriana’s beets, too, roasted and marinated in Sherry vinegar and salt. It’s a sweet and punchy combination that goes well with the rich and hearty soup.

For dessert, we’ve got citrus mess, a DIY dessert that requires assembly. You’ve got a jar of whipped cream with just enough room to add the oranges, so pour them in there. On top of the oranges, you crumble the lemon meringues—be careful when you break them; you want some big pieces, not just crumbs. You may have enough room in the jar to give the whole “mess” a quick stir, but it’s probably easier to use your spoon to dig down through the layers, aiming to get a mix of cream, fruit, and meringue in each bite. (If you’re risk-averse and want to avoid spills, you can put the cream, fruit, and meringue into a larger bowl, instead of trying to fit everything in a jar.)

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