Thursday, February 3, 2011

Creamy Butternut Squash and Barley Soup's COLD outside!  I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm getting pretty sick of this snow-all-the-time business.  For anyone not in the Northeast, count your lucky stars because it is getting truly ridiculous here, and it's only February.  On the upside, nothing beats the cold like a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread, so here's a recipe to keep your little ninja fingers and toes (and tastebuds!) toasty when it's freezing outside.

***Note: you will need to use dried beans for this recipe which require soaking for several hours, so plan ahead!  The best thing to do is put them in water to soak the night before and just leave them there while you snooze.  Or put them in water in the morning and let them soak while you're at work all day.  Just stick your beans in a bowl, add enough water to cover, and leave 'em for at least 6 hours.

Butternut Squash and Barley Soup


1/2 lb dried pinto beans, soaked for at least 6 hours
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz cabbage, shredded
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
8 cups vegetable broth
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 cup plain soy milk
1/2 cup cooked barley
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1.5 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Cook the onion until slightly softened, 3 minutes.  Add carrot, celery, sage, garlic, thyme, and rosemary and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the cabbage, butternut squash, and salt and cook until the cabbage is limp, about 10 minutes.  Add the soaked beans and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until beans are tender.  Add the can of diced tomatoes, sprinkle with some black pepper, and cook another 15 minutes until the soup thickens slightly.  Place 2 cups of the soup into a blender with the 1/2 cup soy milk and puree.  Add the puree mixture back into the pot with the rest of the soup and stir to incorporate.  Add the cooked barley and parsley and cook another 5 minutes until everything is heated through.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust spices if necessary.  Garnish each bowl with a bit more parsley and enjoy!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Shredding cabbage - don't!  To make things easier on yourself, just buy a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix in the section of the grocery store where the bagged salads are.  There will be some carrots mixed in there most likely, but there's carrots in the soup anyway, so no harm done and you'll make your life much easier and your kitchen less messy.

2. Black pepper - why no measurements?  I don't put measurements for how much black pepper to put in most of my recipes, because you really should be using freshly ground black pepper from a grinder, and let's face it - measuring that would be a royal pain in the ass.  If you're not grinding your peppercorns, you truly should be because the flavor is by far superior to pre-ground pepper.  When you grind it yourself, you're getting all the oils from the peppercorns that you lose when it's pre-ground and packaged.  Start with a couple of grinds, taste, and repeat as necessary.  You'll learn pretty quickly how much pepper suits your taste.  Remember - you can always add more but it's much more difficult to take away once there's too much so go slowly!

3. For an even more warm and toasty experience, put a few drops of hot sauce in your soup before eating!

Well that's it for now, ninjas!  Spring must be just around the corner, but until then, keep those fingers and toes warm and those bellies full! 

<3, The Fur Ninja

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