This shabbos looked like it was going to be another unseasonably chilly day, soup weather. And I had several non-meat eaters coming for lunch. So I made fish for main course, but decided I would make a soup for first course. The result was out of this world, and is hardly a recipe, just thinking out of the box. The idea was to make something exciting without any meat product, and to use a short selection of grains and veggies that will stand up to the long cooking time. There’s plenty of room for you to improvise as well. Just as long as you don’t ruin it with onion or garlic powder, or all those powders mysteriously, euphemistically and deceivingly called broth, bouillon, consommé and whatnot. Here’s what I threw in my crock pot, which I plugged minutes before candle lighting. Medium-low temperature. It was honestly one of the best soups I ever tasted, so you might even want to do what I did on any old night dinner as well: throw everything in the crock pot in the morning, plug it and forget it, then enjoy a fabulous soup at dinner time.
Black barley or black rice impart a rich dark shade, hold their shape during the long cooking, and as easy on your digestion. I even use them in rice puddings and salads. You will have no trouble finding either grain in health food stores.
Just before serving, adjust the texture if necessary with a little hot water, and add a little salt and pepper if the soup needs it.
1 1/2 cups black barley or black rice (also called forbidden rice)
3 bags (1 pound total) vacuum-packed roasted chestnuts, crumbled
3 leeks, sliced
1 1/2 pounds shitaki mushrooms, caps only, sliced
3 large potatoes, diced
1 dozen pitted dates, sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups sake
salt to taste
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 good pinches saffron
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig tarragon
4-5 bay leaves, or 1 teaspoon ground
12 cups (3 quarts) water