Knit One, “Pearl” Two
Summer. Yes, it’s hot out there. Summer in the Middle East, really hot out there. Summer in Ra’anana, hot, muggy and uncomfortably hot out there. So what are the two things that relax me the most in the summer? I like to slave over a hot stove, I like to bake things in the oven, and I like to knit and crochet. Granted, the AC needs to be working. Without the AC my favorite thing to do in the summer is to lie supine in bed, in a coma. Wake me in November.
Growing up we ate a lot of soup. With an Hungarian father, a Lithuanian mother and a community full of Eastern European Holocaust survivors, how could you not have soup at a meal? My mother had no concept of summer food. During the winter we would feast on soup, potted or roasted meat, potatoes and some stewed fruit for dessert. In the summer the menu would change marginally, with the addition of a plate of cut up raw vegetables. My father loved his hot soup, the hotter the better. Soup still bubbling away in the bowl and hot enough to burn the skin off your tongue was already too cold for him. This was a man who couldn’t even conceive of the idea of gazpacho or vichyssoise. Cold soup meant forgotten soup.
One of my favorite things to do in the summer with my mom was to sit under a tree and knit. When most people think of knitting they think of rocking chairs in front of the fireplace, the snow gently falling outside, a cat purring at your feet. Not for me. My favorite knitting memories have been sitting under the tree in front of our bungalow (we spent our summers up in the Catskill Mountains at bungalow colonies), my mom yattering to me in Yiddish about her life in Vilna before the war, her life in Sweden after the war and her first years in America as a seamstress. My brother would be off running wild with his friends and I would have my mom all to myself. We’d pull out the yarn and sit together either knitting or crocheting. This was all before knitting became popularly zen. These days knitting has a certain cache to it, but back then it was homey and old fashioned. My friends made fun of me for knitting instead of hanging out with them at the pool. They wanted me to come chase down my younger brother and his friends so we could give them wedgies. Why knit under a tree when I could be sneaking into Grossingers or waiting for the knish man to show up? Yes, most of the time I did run off and be part of the pack of wild animals my mother accused us of being, but there were certain times that it was perfectly wonderful to sit under the tree and knit with my mom. And when we were done, we would go inside and have some hot soup for lunch.
This summer I’ve been knitting up a storm. There are a few babies due this fall and winter, and they need soft and fluffy things to keep them warm. Tinky wants me to knit her a pair of wristers. I just recently taught myself the art of entrelac and think a hat would be pretty funky for the 3 days of winter we get in Ra’anana. So I’ve been busy. Thankfully, when it comes kitting myself out, Ra’anana is probably the best place in Israel to do it. Just a 10 minute walk from my house is The Gourmet Yarn Shop. Orly, the owner, is totally evil and knows exactly how to push my buttons. I’ll come in for 50 grams of blue yarn to finish off a project and walk out of the store an hour later with almost a kilo of the stuff, a knitting book or two and more needles (I probably have over 30 sets of needles by now, but like any addict, always could use a few more). Ju-Boy got fed up with my unfinished projects all over the house (I usually have about 8 or 9 going at once) and bought me some gorgeous canvas boxes to store them. With all my projects neatly out of sight in those boxes, I go back into the Yarn Shop for more, and now I need more boxes.
Orly is currently celebrating the Yarn Shop’s fifth birthday and practically everything is on sale. Every day there is a different kind of yarn on offer with major discounts. So I’m in there practically all the time. What’s an addict to do? I’ve been buying up tons of summer cottons and blends. And pretty soon winter is coming, and warm wooly skeins will be on sale, and pretty soon you won’t be able to see my bedroom floor… again. I think I need a few more needles too…
Mushroom and Barley Soup
My mom used to make all kinds of soup, but one of my favorites was mushroom and barley. I was one of those weird kids who loved mushrooms. And my mom used to buy pearl barley, gorgeous little grains that were perfect for this soup. My recipe differs completely from my mom’s version (I don’t think she ever heard of dried shitake mushrooms, let alone cooked with them), but it still brings me back to those hot summer days of knit one, purl two under the tree, and hot soup for lunch.
- 50 grams dried shitake or porcini mushrooms
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 6 cups of water
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups barely chopped button mushrooms
- water, about 6 cups for a thick pottage, more for a thinner broth
- mild Hungarian paprika, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- soup powder, optional
- Pour the 2 cups of boiling water over the dried mushroom and set aside to soak and cool.
- Fill a small to medium pot with the 6 cups of water. Add the barley. Bring to a boil and let cook until tender. After 20 minutes test a grain or two and keep cooking until the barley is al dente. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of your soup pot and caramelize the onions.
- When the onions have reach your idea of perfection add the barely chopped button mushroom and saute for about 5 minutes.
- Add the amount of water for the type of soup that you want (I usually go for about 8 cups and cook it down to 6). Bring to the boil.
- When boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the re-hydrated mushrooms together with the water they were soaked in. This water will have a tremendous amount of mushroom flavor.
- Simmer for about 30 minutes. Then add the rinsed and drained barley, paprika and salt and pepper. If you use soup powder (either overtly or covertly) add that as well. Taste the soup. Adjust seasoning.
- Serve hot.
Posted on 17 August 2011, in Family Life, Jewish cooking, Mom, Soup, Vegan, Vegetarian and tagged barley, Catskill Mountains, cooking, Jewish Cooking, knitting, Knitting and Crochet, kosher, mom, mushroom, pearl barly, recipe, soup, vegan, vegetarian, yarn. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.