Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pickle Soup: Barley, Mushroom, and Vegetable Soup for Missing My Mom on Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

"Mother's Day is gonna suck." Is what the guy who owns my neighborhood coffee shop (and satellite office one or two days a week) said to me as he sat down at my table on Friday. Not the message he was giving everyone I'm sure, but he knows I lost my mom this time last year. It's been just a handful of years since he lost his own mom and we occasionally discuss the grief process and the feeling of emptiness that losing your mom brings.

I consider myself lucky to have had my mom for as long as I did (she was on her way to  84-years-old when she died). I'm truly fortunate that she was such a wonderful woman and that I had a great relationship with her. And, I miss her so much that sometimes it is like a really hard blow to the chest. Other times it's more of a dull ache, or even sometimes a nagging feeling that something is missing--like around 3:00-4:00 PM everyday when I feel like I have forgotten to do something and realize it is because I used to talk to her almost every day at that time. So yeah, sorry to be a downer, but no getting around it--Mother's Day, this entire month really, is on the suckier side for me and my family this year. 

Do me a favor--if you have your mom, give her a hug or call her to tell her you love her, today and any day that you can. If you lost your mom, even if it was years ago, I share your pain and your loss. Keep yourself busy on this Mother's Day, do something kind for yourself or someone else, and because food and the sharing of food is a form of love, maybe get into the kitchen and make something that reminds you of her. For me that's a big bowl of soup.

So, I wasn't sure if I would do a Souper Sundays post this week. It took me a long while to be able to make soup after my mom passed and even longer to get back to a weekly post about it (Souper Sundays just started back at the end of February). It might sound silly to connect a person so heavily to soup but it is a big link to my mom. I don't make or sit down to a bowl of soup without thinking whether she would like it, on Saturday phone calls she always wanted to know what kind of soup I was making that weekend, and during her last few weeks, it was one of the handful of things she seemed to have success at getting down, and actually enjoyed eating. 

Love Soup by Anna Thomas is a favorite classic cookbook of mine and it had been 'staring at me' from the stacks, wondering I think, why it had been so long since I cooked from it. Without opening the cover, I knew the recipe I had in mind, the Pickle Soup that I have been meaning to make for years now because it sounded so good and unique. For some reason, I am on a pickle kick lately--adding them to everything and just eating them out of the jar--so putting them into a barley, mushroom, and veggie soup sounded perfect. 

When I went to the tabbed recipe, I took a moment to read the story behind it, something I had forgotten about, and realized that the author made this soup for her own mother when she was old and in failing health to tempt her appetite because it was "full of the flavors of her Polish kitchen." The connection between that mother and daughter seemed another reason that this soup called to be made this weekend. I think my mom would have enjoyed it--she was a great fan of barley soups and although not the dill and pickle fanatic that I am, she enjoyed the flavors and as Thomas points out, "...the pickles are one small part of this soup. They melt into the whole, and if you weren't told about them, you wouldn't necessarily know--you'd just love the tangy, dilly flavor of this great soup.

Saturday afternoon found me in the kitchen with some good music, the peaceful zen of chopping veggies, a few smiles, and a few tears. And, in the end, a delicious bowl of soup with a whole lot of love mixed into it. 

Note: I did make some changes to the ingredients--based on what I had on hand (10-minute quick-cooking barley, baby spinach instead of chard, fresh tarragon in place of the fresh parsley I thought I had...) and the method--there were way too many pots for me to wash and so I reduced it to two--one for the soup and one for the mushrooms. Below is the recipe from the book with my changes noted in red.

Pickle Soup
Adapted from Love Soup by Anna Thomas
(Makes 10 Servings)

1/2 cup pearl barley (I used 1 cup quick-cooking pearl barley)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup chopped leeks, white & light green parts (I used 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz portobello, cremini, or other brown mushrooms, chopped
8 oz Yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
1/2 bunch green chard (I used about 3 cups baby spinach)
1 wedge savoy cabbage (I used 1/2 head green cabbage)
1 medium red bell pepper, cored and diced or large roasted pimento from a jar
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh tarragon)
3 cups good vegetable broth (I used 4 cups + 4 cups water)
1 cup finely diced dill pickles, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper 
optional garnishes: (vegan) sour cream, yogurt cheese, or farmer cheese

Rinse the barley, put it in a large soup pot with 8 cups (2 liters) water and 1 teaspoon salt, and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and add the chopped onion. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the chopped leeks and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, or until the onion and leeks are soft and beginning to color.

In another skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and stir the garlic in it over high heat for about a minute. Add the mushrooms, a dash of salt, and a pinch of thyme and sauté the mushrooms until their excess liquid cooks away and they are sizzling, about 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, and turnip to the barley, along with another half a teaspoon of salt. You can add a cup or two of water if it is needed to keep everything submerged. Bring the liquid back to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 more minutes.

While the root vegetables are cooking, wash the chard, remove the tough stems, and chop the leaves coarsely. Shred the wedge of cabbage into 1/2-inch strips. Add the sautéed onion and leeks and the sautéed mushrooms to the soup, deglazing the pans with a bit of water. Stir in the chard, cabbage, bell pepper, dill, parsley, and vegetable broth. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the finely diced pickles and simmer for 10 minutes more.

My method: I used the soup pot to sauté my onions and leeks, then my carrot and celery until softened, then I added my broth, turnip and potatoes and simmered it for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I sautéd my garlic, thyme and mushroom in a separate pan as directed and set aside. I then added my 10-minute barley, red pepper, cabbage, spinach, dill, tarragon and the mushrooms (deglazing the pan) to the soup and cooked it for 10 minutes. Finally, I added in the dill pickles and simmered the soup for 10 more minutes before tasting and adjusting the seasoning. 

Taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning with more salt and some freshly ground pepper. The pickles become milder over time, releasing their acidity into the soup as they cook; your soup will have a more subtle flavor after it simmers a little longer. 

Thomas says, "This is an old-fashioned soup, and tastes great with a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt cheese, or plain white farmer cheese. ... You'll have a big pot of soup--enough for about 10 meal-sized servings. I like to freeze it for another time.

Notes/Results: This soup is a homey, nicely balanced bowl of great flavors and textures. The pickles mellow as the soup sits and cooks so it isn't like you are biting into a sour dill pickle, but it gives the soup a lovely acidity. The dill is prominent but the thyme and the small amount of tarragon I added are there too, adding to the layers. I put in extra barley and of course it absorbs liquid readily, so that with all of the veggies it has a definite stew-like feel. The veggies are a good mix too with the sweeter carrots and red pepper, slightly pungent turnip and cabbage, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the buttery goodness of the Yukon gold potatoes. I had some vegan sour cream in the fridge and I liked the way it added creaminess to the soup when stirred into it. Thomas suggests serving it with pumpernickel or rye bread but I had some dill pickle Kettle Chips that I thought were fun, slightly crushed and sprinkled on top. It's a good thing I like this soup because it makes a lot, so I intend to try freezing some for later. I would make it again. 

It was salads and sandwiches at last week's Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays linkup. Here's a recap of what was shared.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes got creative with her rotisserie chicken game and says, "Keeping it simple and easy, but upping the game a bit. I decided to grab whatever was either on sale or just caught my fancy at the store and make a salad. The first thing I noticed were organic cucumbers. Perfect. Then right next to them was a package of bright and colorful sweet peppers, also on sale. Bingo. I bought some baby greens and I was good to go. I was already putting together the Chicken, Cucumbers and Sweet Peppers Salad in my head."

Debra of Eliot's Eats brought a salad and a sandwich to share. inspired by the official menu at the Kentucky Derby.  She says, "Since it might be our 50th anniversary before we get to attend the Derby, I decided to make us a special treat inspired by this official menu. All of the dishes were most worthy for duplicating, but I went perhaps the easy route and wanted to make the Black and Blue Salad with the Turkey & Brie Sandwiches.

And... "When I told The Hubs I was trying out a new sandwich, he was as eager as ever to be a taste-tester. When I described what was going into the sandwich, he said, “My, that’s an awful lot of flavors.” After he bit into it, though, he thought he had hit the Daily Double! The apple butter adds just the right amount of sweetness to go with the creamy brie and savory rosemary. I hope you try this!"

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brought this Farm-Stand Pasta Salad and says, "We had enough leftover that it was a main meal the first night, a pasta salad side dish the next and just enough to go along for lunch at work the next day. It stores well too. We didn’t eat it three days in a row but it stayed very fresh in a sealed container. ... Definitely having this one again! You can vary the ingredients and add more pepper if you are fan or double the tomatoes (which I will do next time) or add steamed broccoli. I guess that’s why it’s called Farmer’s Market Pasta."

Thanks to everyone who linked up!

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.
On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional). 

Have a happy, healthy week!


  1. Thinking of you today, Deb. Although I can't put myself in your shoes, I know it must be hard. The soup sounds amazing and I am a fellow dill fanatic. I'm glad you wrote and posted today.

    1. Thank you Debra--I appreciate the kinds thoughts. ;-) Thanks also for joining in Souper Sundays.

  2. sending you hugs! this pickle soup is so unique.

  3. I've bookmarked this post. I love soup and pickles but never would have put the two together in a recipe.

    I lost my mom 20 years ago and it is still hard.
    Sending you a big HUG!

    1. Thank you Vicki. It's definitely an unusual soup but in a very good way. ;-) Hugs back to you.

      And thanks for linking up your sandwiches this week too.

  4. All I want to do is hop on a plane, come to see you and give you a big fat hug. The pain of losing a parent never actually goes away, does it? It fades some, but our beloved parent is always there in memory. My mom died when I was 17 and I still miss her. I will be 60 in three weeks and I still think of her when I am doing something in the kitchen. This is a fine tribute to your mom.

    I have a wicked salad to share with you this week but I haven't gotten my photos together yet. See you in a day or so :-)

  5. Thanks Tina. I wish you could. You are right, the pain just doesn't go away. Hugs to you.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your salad! ;-)

  6. Well....I didn't get my salad photos uploaded, crazy week at work, but I sure will have my salad post ready for next week! I am linking with quesadillas cause they are sandwiches...right?@ LOL


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