I’m now more than half way through Louis Eguaras‘s 8 ways to make a plate look better (read about my other plate-beautifying efforts here, here, here, and here). Today’s tip advises using a garnish in a contrasting color and texture. Oh, and by the way, it should be edible; Eguaras insists that garnishes “should be intended to be eaten.” None of those waxy kale leaves that sneak under a bed of fried shrimp and fries or, heaven forbid, a tropical paper umbrella.
The wind is a-howling here tonight, calling for something warm and satisfying to the palate (and stomach). So, in attempt to add a non-superfluous garnish to a warming bowl of soup, I saved a single cremini mushroom from my ingredient stash and fried some bacon.
The bacon has a nice crunch with contributes a contrasting texture, while the raw sliced mushroom lends a light color in contrast with the earthy browns in the soup. I always thought too that garnishes should complement or allude to the ingredients in the dish, so I like how the bacon hints at the ham (the leftover Christmas ham that I snuck in) and the mushrooms underscore the soup’s mushroominess. What really would have set this garnish over the top would have been some snipped chives which would bring in a bright punch of green. But, most importantly, the entire garnish was edible. Yay!
Mushroom Barley Soup (loosely adapted from Epicurious)
– 1 cup pearl barley
1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the barley and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 35-40 minutes. Drain and rinse barley with cold water. Set aside.
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 ribs celery, diced
– 1 carrot, diced
– 1 leek, sliced
– about 1 pound mushrooms, large dice or thin slices (I used 1 portobello cap, a few shiitakes, and the rest creminis; mix and match as you please)
– 2-3 cloves garlic
– about 10 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped (or about 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
2. Saute the onions and celery over medium heat in a bit of olive oil in a large pot. Once they have softened, add the garlic and thyme. When you can smell the garlic, add the remainder of the vegetables. Salt and pepper generously. Continue to saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are brown and starting to shrink up.
– splash of dry white wine
– 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
– 1.5 cups beef broth
– 3 cups water
3. Add the wine and let it simmer down. Add the tomato paste and mix it around so that some of the veggies are coated with it. Then add the broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm. Stir in cooked leftover ham, if desired.
And for dessert, why not a little raspberry brownie-swirl ice cream?