Sunday, February 1, 2009

Polish -style Vegetarian Mushroom-barley soup (Krupnik)

Krupnik is the Polish name of a traditional peasant (country) soup. Although each family makes it differently, the basic ingredients always include mushrooms, barley, potatoes, and carrots. Dill and sour cream are traditionally added for authentic flavor. It is a warming soup made with inexpensive fall vegetables (thus the fact that it is a peasant soup).

I grew up eating variations of mushroom barley soup that my mother and her mother made. The soups were always made in the winter, using seasonal vegetables. I’ve created this recipe from the non-vegetarian versions of my childhood, focusing on rich flavors and local, seasonal vegetables. I only make this soup in the late fall and winter. The earthy aroma of mushrooms simmering in broth and accented by the fragrance of dill and root vegetables fills the kitchen on a frosty day with warmth. The golden color of the broth is best dished up in brown or red bowls. Serve with fresh crusty bread and maybe a simple salad.

Here’s my version, which varies each time based upon what is available. The vegetables should be as fresh as possible.

One large container fresh button mushrooms, sliced
A handful of Polish or porcini dried mushrooms (if you have them available)
1 cup cleaned and chopped leeks (washed well, white part only)
1 tablespoon butter
Glug of olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced carrots (about 6 carrots)
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (two stalks)
3/4 cup pearled barley
4 cups (one box) vegetable stock (I prefer Imagine low sodium)
2-3 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes (2-3 potatoes)
2 cups green cabbage, thinly sliced into ribbons (about a ¼ head)
Dill flakes (a couple handfuls)
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
Tablespoon dried mushroom powder
3 cloves allspice
¼ cup of ½ and ½
Fresh dill for garnish, optional

  1. Prepare the vegetables. Try to keep slices as thin and uniform as possible.
    - Wash and thinly slice the leaks.
    - Peel and slice the carrots.
    - Slice the celery.
    - Dust off the mushrooms and slice.
    - Peel and dice the potatoes. Keep in a bowl with water until needed.
  2. If you are using dried mushrooms: In a medium bowl, cover mushrooms with 2-1/2 cups boiling water. Place a smaller bowl or plate over the bowl to keep the mushrooms submerged. Soak for 20 minutes or until softened. Line a mesh strainer with two layers of cheesecloth and drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Coarsely chop mushrooms.
  3. In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté leeks in butter until soft, about 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery and sauté about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and a handful of dill flakes. Add barley, reserved mushroom liquid, vegetable stock, water, and dried mushroom powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add potatoes, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, cabbage, and dried mushrooms. Return to a simmer and cook 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and dill as needed.
  5. Add ½ and ½ and stir. Remove from heat and serve. Do not let soup boil after adding the ½ and ½ . Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill, if desired.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Three Sisters Stew

Three Sisters Stew is a traditional dish of the Native American tribes of the southwestern United States. It draws on the ancient subsistence crops of the Americas: corn, beans, and squash.

I like to make Three Sisters Stew in the fall and early winter to enjoy locally grown butternut squash. Early in the season, I'm able to add some of our homegrown garden tomatoes. But now in January, I have to rely on the vacuum packed tomatoes from our fall CSA shares from Sandhill Organics in Grayslake, IL. When those fabulous tomatoes are gone, I rely on Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes. For the beans, I usually use organic black beans, tossing in some pinto or roman beans to make a creamier texture. While dried, soaked beans are ideal, canned work just as well and take less time. Add some roasted corn (Trader Joes has a tasty frozen corn) and you are good to go.

As part of a vegetarian diet, corn, beans, and squash include key vitmains and minerals. The squash provides beta-carotene and a host of nutrients. The beans add protein, which becomes a complete protein if you serve this dish with brown rice or another grain such as millet.

As part of a local diet, it's a great dish for the fall, using ingredients grown throughout the Illinois and the Midwest.

Here is my version of this traditional dish.

Serves 6
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
Olive oil
1 leek (or small onion), chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into cubes (about 1 cup)
Small amount of poblano pepper, seeded and cut into strips (jalapeno can also be used)
1 14-16 oz can of diced tomatoes and juice (Muir Glen organic fire roasted preferred)
Mix the following seasonings as you have available:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chipotle (or use chili powder)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of tomato powder
Dash of ancho chili powder
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups canned, drained beans (pinto, black, dark kidney – mix and match)
1-2 cups corn (sweet white preferred, Trader Joes roasted is even better)
Fresh cilantro

Note – you can skip baking the squash and microwave or steam until tender, or just cook the whole stew longer.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and cut the squash into one inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and put in a baking pan that was sprayed with Pam. Bake for about 30-45 minutes or until squash is easily pierced with a knife but still firm. Stir occasionally to make sure it does not burn.
4. Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add leek and sauté for three minutes. Add garlic and sauté for two minutes. Add bell and poblano peppers and cook five minutes more, stirring often.
5. Stir in squash, tomatoes, and spices. Toss to coat and then cook five minutes.
6. Stir in vegetable stock. Bring mixture to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens a little. Add beans and corn.
7. Season to taste. If time allows, let sit for a couple of hours or overnight before serving. Add cilantro just before serving. The stew should be thick and moist but not soupy.

Serve with a side or brown rice, quinoa, or millet for a complete vegetarian meal.

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