Mushroom Barley Soup with Turkey Parmesan Meatballs

Dsc01462 If my mom is going to be out of town for several days, before she departs, she will typically spend an entire day in the kitchen, making stews, soups, and casseroles and putting them in the freezer with reheating directions for my dad, so that he won’t starve while she is gone.  Actually, he wouldn’t starve, but he would live on Kung Pao Chicken and pepperoni pizza, which to my mom, who cooks dinner every night, would just be unacceptable. 

I am going to be in New York for a cooking competition next week, and, having picked up a thing or two from my mom, I have started preparing a few items that Eric can easily reheat for dinner when he gets home from work.  Oh, who am I kidding?  He’ll still order pizza on one night and have a huge bowl of cereal for dinner on the next night.  Well, at least it will make me feel better, knowing that there is a home-cooked dinner in the refrigerator for him as a last resort

I usually make a turkey meatball soup, which is similar to this recipe, but it uses orzo (rice shaped pasta) instead of barley.  I’ve been trying to incorporate more whole grains in my recipes, so last night I decided to add the barley, and because mushrooms and barley go so well together, I sauteed up some sliced mixed mushrooms to add to the soup.  The result was a comforting and filling one-pot meal, which came together, from start to finish, in about 40 minutes. Here are my tips for preparing this hearty, healthy, soup:

  • Pearled barley cooks faster than regular barley because the outer hull has been removed.  Barley can usually be found in the organic or health foods section of your grocery store, and some stores, such as Whole Foods, offer it in the bulk foods section.  If you cannot find   barley, try substituting something like a short grain brown rice. 
  • It is important to use a ground turkey that has at least 7% fat content.  Anything lower will be too dry.  You can also use a lean ground sirloin or ground chicken.
  • You may replace the large sprig of fresh thyme with 1 teaspoon of dried thyme.
  • Instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, you can use grated Pecorino Romano, which is a little bit saltier, but it also tends to be less expensive.
  • For the mushrooms, I like to use a blend of a few of the following varietals: oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, portobello, crimini, and large white buttons.  If your store does not offer a large selection, then use a combination of the buttons and the meatier criminis (baby portobellos).

Mushroom Barley Soup with Turkey Parmesan Meatballs

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

5 cups beef stock or broth

1 cup water

2/3 cup pearled barleyDsc01460

1 large thyme sprig

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 pound ground turkey

2 large eggs

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large saucepan, combine the stock, water, barley, and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook over low heat until the barley is almost tender, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and shallot, season well with salt and pepper, and cook until very tender and browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.  Thoroughly combine the mixture, using your hands to mix, then roll it into 1-inch balls.

Add the meatballs and the mushrooms to the soup and simmer, covered, over medium heat until the meatballs are cooked through and the barley is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Discard the thyme and serve.

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