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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


When weather turns cold, turn to soup

I paddled three times last week, once in an outrigger and twice on an ocean board. I left my house yesterday morning in a T-shirt, only to wish that I could work in shorts and flip-flops, it was so warm.
It was almost as though we were being spoiled by the weather gods as we walked with blissful ignorance into that misty night.
And then today happened. I walked outside and could see my breath in the chilly, 43-degree air that had our quaint little village beset in frigid misery. Despite all of that, our youngest is an 11-year-old, who walked out of the house in just a T-shirt, assuring me that it wasn’t cold. He mocked me.
Remember those days? Being a kid in the pool or ocean in September so long that your lips were blue and your entire body shook in convulsions? “Nope,” you would say to your parents as they told you that you were cold. “I’m fine” and you would stay in for another hour, barely able to move your joints as you stretched out for the grilled cheese and tomato soup that your mom had so thoughtfully prepared for you.
Nowadays, it only takes me a whiff of the cold autumn air to realize that my aging bones and joints are already creaking. And it is precisely at this moment that I begin to search out comforting foods that will appease said ails and nurse me back to my young self once again: Or least in my mind.
When I experience days such as these, my mind goes in many directions simultaneously. Warming spices? Yes, I could make something that would have cinnamon, allspice, mace, white pepper et al. Or perhaps soups?
Alas, the days of watermelon gazpacho are over and it’s time to move on to more robust, rib-sticking potage such as butternut squash soup, clam chowder, cream of crab soup or one of my favorites, beef barley soup.
I couldn’t have walked out on a better day to wish for comfort foods as, as mentioned before, it’s flipping cold out there, and we are cooking foods from the Midwest today. The Midwest, home to quaint colloquialisms about men, sheep, beer and cheese. But more importantly, home to fairly hearty foods. And can you blame them? Once the summer is over, it’s time to stack wood for the winter!
I have cousins who live in Milwaukee, and as I flew up there in the winter last year, it struck me that it was much like Upstate New York; when we get a foot of snow down here, we’re done for a week or so. They wouldn’t get a school delay for a foot of snow. Up north, folks are much more hardened to the hardships of winter, and I plan on keeping it that way: them hardened and me not.
One of my students, Donald, made a nice batch of beef barley soup, and as I sit here typing away madly, I can smell (literally) and taste (figuratively) the soup as it is in its final stages.
A straightforward and simple soup, you would do well to enhance the flavors by making your own stocks with which to start. There is nothing quite like a fresh stock from roasted bones to make a soup ‘pop’ with a freshness that you simply cannot get by using a cheap bouillon or store-bought ‘stock’ (which is nothing more than bouillon with added water; those sneaky marketers).
You can also use sun-dried tomatoes as a substitute for tomato paste, as the concentrated flavors of the sun-drieds will add a lovely dimension of flavor to your soup. By simply pureeing them with oil and/or stock, you will have the opportunity to bring even more flavors into this simple favorite.
And when the dust settles and the smoke clears, you are left with a bowl of nutrient-dense broth that will help you deal with the cold days ahead. They’re coming. Oh, they’re coming.
Beef Barley Soup
Makes about 3 quarts
1/4 c. Sundried tomatoes
3 Tbsp. Chicken stock, or as needed
2 Tbsp. EV Oil
8 oz. Lean sirloin, cut into small cubes
1 ea. Medium carrot, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, lightly peeled and diced
1/2 ea. Red onion, diced
4 ea. Garlic cloves, mashed and minced
2 c. Pearl Barley
2 stems fresh thyme, leaves only
2 qt. Roasted chicken or veal stock
2 ea. Bay leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste
Italian parsley, as needed for garnish

Puree the sundried tomatoes with the chicken stock in a strong blender under perfectly smooth. This is a nice substitute for tomato paste as sundried tomatoes have more of a pronounced flavor. Set aside until later
In a soup pot, heat the olive oil and cook the beef until it has a nice brown crust on at least one side
Add the carrot, celery and onion and cook for four minutes
Add the garlic and cook for another two minutes
Add the barley and cook for five minutes, making sure to stir everything together
Add the time and chicken stock and stir
When it’s at a full simmer, turn down a little bit and add the bay leaves
Cook until the barley and beef are both tender
Season to taste and serve with parsley as a garnish