Mushroom Barley Soup
Mushroom Barley Soup (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Cold weather got you blue? Heat up some ‘frozen gold’

Will the groundhog see his shadow on Feb. 2? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that whether the weather that day is cloudy or bright, we still have weeks of winter’s cold and rain ahead of us.

Be prepared and make some soup. If you need more encouragement, having leftover soup in the freezer (or “frozen gold” as my husband calls it) makes it easy to have a warming bowl of goodness anytime.

These soups have a Jewish connection. Slow Cooker Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup draws inspiration from my cold-weather New York Jewish deli college favorite. The Ginger Chicken Rice Soup is based on one I had for Shabbat dinner at the Chabad center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Taste before adding salt if using commercially prepared chicken broth. Many brands are salty to begin with.

Slow Cooker Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup
Serves 6 to 8

2 Tbs. oil
2 cups chopped onion
1½ Tbs. chopped garlic
2 lbs. boneless chuck roast, cut into bite-sized cubes
½ tsp. salt, divided (or to taste)
½ tsp. ground black pepper, divided
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup thinly sliced celery
4 cups sliced mushrooms
4 cups chicken broth or stock
6 cups of water
1 Tbs. soy sauce
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 cup uncooked pearl barley, rinsed

Heat oil in large sauté or fry pan over high heat. Sauté onions and garlic until golden. Add beef, sprinkle with half of the salt and pepper. Sauté until browned. Transfer to large slow cooker heated to high. Place carrots, celery, mushrooms, broth, water, soy sauce, paprika, red pepper flakes and ginger in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low, stir in barley and remaining pepper. Cover. Cook for 8 hours (beef should be tender). Taste. Stir in remaining salt if needed. If soup is too thin, increase heat to high, remove lid and cook down to desired thickness, stirring occasionally. If soup is too thick, stir in water as needed, cover and cook until heated through.

Note: When reheating leftovers, you may need to thin with broth or water.

Ginger Chicken Rice Soup
Serves 6 to 8

8 cups chicken broth or stock
5 cups water
¼ tsp. salt, or to taste
¼ tsp. black pepper
4 slices of fresh ginger (each the size of a quarter)
4 whole cloves garlic
4-inch stalk lemongrass (from bulb to light green part of stalk), optional
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 cups chopped onion
¾ lb. bok choy
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3 cups cooked rice

Put broth and water in large pot over medium high heat. Cover. Bring to simmer. Taste. Add salt (if needed) and ground pepper. Add slices of ginger and garlic cloves. Cut lemongrass in half lengthwise and smack cut sides with heavy knife to bruise. Add to pot. Simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken. Simmer and poach, covered, until just cooked through. Be careful not to overcook. Remove chicken. Shred and reserve.

Remove and discard ginger, garlic and lemongrass. Return broth to simmer. Add carrots, bell pepper and onion. Cover and simmer. Chop bok choy stems into ¼-inch pieces and add to pot. Chop bok choy leaves into ½-inch pieces and reserve. Add minced ginger and lemon juice. Return to simmer. Cook until vegetables are just tender. Add cooked rice. When warmed through, add chicken and bok choy leaves and simmer until leaves are wilted. Taste. Correct seasonings.

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Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.