Well, okay, maybe not all that spicy, as I usually turn down the heat a little. But this was one excellent, full-bodied soup. Was it the grains? Plus the vegetables? Maybe the allspice? This had a richness all its own. It’s a chewy soup, and ultimately satisfying.
Spicy grain soup (slightly modified from Food&Wine)
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup short-grain brown rice
1/2 cup bulghur
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 ancho chile (or more, according to your liking for heat), stemmed, seeded, broken into 2″ pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
6 cilantro sprigs, plus 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground allspice
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 medium zucchini, finely diced
1 medium parsnip, finely diced
1/2 cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds
In a medium saucepan, cover the barley with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until tender, about 35 minutes; drain. Return the barley to the pan and cover. In another medium saucepan, cover the brown rice with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain the brown rice and add to the barley.
In a medium bowl, cover the bulghur with 1 cup hot water. cover and let stand until the water is absorbed, 10 minutes.
In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil. Add the chile, onion, and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, cilantro sprigs and allspice and season with 1 tablespoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Puree the soup in a blender and return to the pan.
Add the mushrooms, black beans, carrot, zucchini, and parsnip to the pureed soup and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the barley, rice, and bulghur and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro and serve. Makes 8 servings.