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.

Soup so hot it has to fog up the camera lens

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.

This is a project I started last night -- hot summer night outside, AC blasting inside, a little zen knitting to soothe the soul

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.

I have so much trouble resisting the lure of this place

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
  1. Pour the 2 cups of boiling water over the dried mushroom and set aside to soak and cool.
  2. 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.
  3. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of your soup pot and caramelize the onions.
  4. When the onions have reach your idea of perfection add the barely chopped button mushroom and saute for about 5 minutes.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Serve hot.

Perfect for a summer day with the AC going full and strong, or on a cold winter's night wrapped up in the cozy afghan you knit yourself

About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 17 August 2011, in Family Life, Jewish cooking, Mom, Soup, Vegan, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Mirj,
    I just signed up today for your blog, and lo and behold, i found an update the same day in my inbox !
    I just wanted to mention that when I make mushroom-barley soup, I include diced carrots, and they are cooked along with the pearl barley, since they also take a while to soften. Carrots give the soup a sweetness as well as some nice color.
    Cute title for this edition of your blog.


  2. Oh, I can taste this all the way over here. Yum!!


  3. It is interesting that your post today should include a wonderful recipe for mushroom and barley soup. (Into my file, and taped to the fridge door)
    I was reading a health article this morning on the benefits of 12 best foods to reverse the negative effects the aging process has on cognition, etc; not the least of which was polished barley (pearl barley). Pearl barley is that wonderfully healthy grain that has the husks removed (as you know).
    My favourite soup grain is barley (Beef, barley, macaroni and fresh tomato, to be more specific)
    So, Mirj, thanks very much once again, for posting your informative nostalgia.
    My own mother would knit, crochet and tat. I did not learn, by choice; my two sisters were really adept at these needle-crafts…
    Your relationship with your mother warms my heart.


  4. Mirjam,
    I think we may have been separated at birth! I amde a big pot of vegetable soup last Sunday night as a cool Judean Hills breeze blew in off my mirpeset! Thanks to you, I have now used my quiet evenings in my retail establishment to teach myself entrelac knitting also. I’m still practising but hopefully will get some lovely, girly yarn next week to begin knitting an entrelac baby blanket for my neice who is due in December! I’ll let you know how it goes but thanks for always giving me the creative ideas. Love, Marcy


    • I got so jealous when you said Judean Hills breeze, I miss those so much! Let me know how the blanket work out. I’m now making wristers for my daughter with really fine yarn, it takes a lot of patience!


  5. Looks delicious!

    RE: hot soup in the summer — No matter the weather – up to and including a blazing chamsin – my family would never agree to give up on having hot soup every Friday night.


  6. Soup looks yummy….but yay, a knitting post! There are a number of us out there who do love it. Have not yet tried entrelac but it looks intriguing(?). I currently have several cardigans in progress and am about to cast on Lalique, a lacey one that I am doing in fingering weight yarn. Long live Ravelry!
    Happy knitting and baking to all.


  7. Irmgard Upmanis

    My father was another one who had to have hot soup with every dinner, even in the summer. My husband still scratches his head in confusion when I make soup for a summer meal!


  8. I love that knit pattern. I really like the idea of knitting, but I haven’t come accross anything work making. Everything I think of would be better, cheaper, and easier with fabric. And I don’t need a sweater at the moment. But I did watch some you tube clips to get started.


    • I don’t knit because it’s easy or cheaper, it’s not. I knit because it’s fun and I’m addicted to it, like cooking.


      • It does look like fun! I think crochet might be more my speed. I like the upcycling possibilities. Hopefully next week I can waddle out and pick up a couple crochet hooks.


        • If you can waddle as far as Ra’anana and come in the evening, around 6:30-ish we can go to my yarn shop and then have supper, or coffee out.


        • That sounds fun, but at the moment I’m not waddling that far. Though the possibility of food does make me go a little more out of my way. I think I might be able to pick up a crochet hook from the craft store across the street or borrow from a neighbor and I have lots of fabric scraps and plastic bags and cheap yarn I could play with. I was thinking about a plastic bag holder made from plastic bags. I would like to meet you sometime, though. Let me know the next time you come to P”T, maybe we can catch lunch or something.


  9. I love today’s post Mirj! The soup recipe looks fantastic and I plan to give it a try this fall. I enjoyed reading about your obsession with knitting. I too am obsessed. Cotton and bamboo yarns are perfect for hot weather projects. Living along the gulf coast in Texas… I know all about hot weather. I hardly ever get to knit with wool.


  10. That is really beautiful–I would love to be able to knit in that pattern. My grandmother taught me to knit and I found it so soothing, but I haven’t done it in years. There is a group here is town that gets together to knit hats for infants and soldiers–I am thinking of joining and relearning how to knit.


  11. I learned to crochet last week and it was such a sanity saver when I was sick for several days. I did learn that recycled materials are not good for learning and beginners shouldn’t try to make things in matching pairs. I now have two different sized baby booties and a lamb with different sized feet. I think I’m ready to try working with “plarn” this week. But at the moment I’m going back to sewing recycled jeans.


  1. Pingback: Two Years Without My Mom « Miriyummy

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