Split Pea and Barley Soup with Hot Sausage

There is not much that can beat split pea soup. It is warm, creamy and filling. The tastes of the peas in chicken soup stock with onions and the occasional sweet bit of carrot are a completely satisfying experience.

But as with most of the dishes I cook other considerations, like what needs to be eaten, influence the process of my kitchen experiments.

Split pea soup was on the menu and ½ pound of spicy pork sausage was sitting in the fridge looking kinda lonely. In the process of gathering up supplies, I ran across about a cup of barley and I thought: Why not?

As I noted earlier, I like chicken stock as a base for split pea soup. In this instance I thought stock and sausage might be too rich. So, I cut the amount of stock  and added water for the remaining liquid.

2 cups of split peas and 1 cup of barley.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock and 3 cups of water.

Add salt to taste

Add chopped carrots if desired.

Bring to a boil then cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Chop up the ½ lb of sausage and place in a skillet,

Chop one small onion and add to the sausage.

Cook thoroughly

When the sausage is cooked, drain the oil for use with other dishes.

Crumble the sausage and add, with the onions, to the soup.

What I liked: The texture of this soup is amazing. It is full bodied and has a great mouth feel. I always like barley in food because it has a slightly chewy texture that I find very satisfying. The hot sausage was an interesting change from ham. And as with many spicy foods, by the following day, the spices had become more pronounced.

What I found less than perfect: Adding the barley flattens out the taste of the peas.

So there is a slight trade off of texture and taste, I will make this again, but it wasn’t so good that I would let it replace the standard version of split pea soup.

Enjoy.

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The Lazy Cook Makes Pasta Sauce for the Coming Year

My mother taught me to can. Not to cook mind you, well, not directly anyway. That was my sister’s thing. I was the official “guy” of the house; fixing the lawnmower, changing the oil in the cars. I didn’t start cooking until I was away from home.

But canning enough food for the coming year requires more than two people, so I helped prep vegetables, wash jars, tend the cooker and in general take orders while staying out of the way.

And over the years I watched my mother drag out her canner, can a batch of something and put it away. A few weeks later when another batch of something was ready, she would drag it out again.

When making pasta sauce this was not nearly lazy enough for me. Tomatoes are fickle. Too little rain means they wait to flower and fruit. A lot of rain often means blossom end rot and few tomatoes. Sporadic rain means batches of randomly ripe tomatoes.

So the Lazy Cook came up with a plan. We are lucky enough to have the space for an upright freezer; as many farms and rural households do. So as the tomatoes ripen, into the freezer they go. And when the season is through, you can bring them all out at once and make a weekend of it.

Freezing the tomatoes has the added benefit of making them easy to peel. Spending a lot of time up to my elbows in raw tomatoes irritates my skin. If I can dip the frozen fruit into boiling water for a few seconds, the skin slips right off and I can cut out bad spots and chunk them with relatively little mess.

Yes, it’s cold; but much less messy. Besides, there will be plenty of time to warm hands once the cooking starts.

This year, I’m trying out Amish Paste Tomatoes. They are an heirloom variety, so if they make a tasty sauce, I’ll just keep planting them as I need them in the future with no fear of Monsanto coming in and busting up the joint.

Many people add sugar to their sauce to offset a bitterness that can arise in the process of cooking away the excess liquid that regular tomatoes often have. Adding sugar is unnecessary and, frankly, an affront to the tomato. Here are some ways to avoid this, which are also conveniently lazy:

– Use sauce tomatoes which are less juicy. Roma, Amish Paste and quite a few other varieties are less watery.

– Use a sweet onion in your sauce. I use Vidalia onions; and a lot of them. It’s almost impossible to get your sauce too “onion-y” with these. Sometimes, if I want a different flavor, I’ll sautee the chopped onions to the point of crisping the edges. Sometimes I just dump them in raw. Add a few grated carrots too.

– Roast your sauce. Yes, Roast Your Sauce. Best lazy move I ever made.

You’ll need enamel pans or Corning ware. I end up stacking pans on dishes on pots in my oven. The very occasional stirring becomes more complicated, but on the whole it’s much easier. I have yet to burn a batch of oven-roasted sauce, unlike some of my early stovetop batches.

Turn your oven onto its lowest setting. I use propane and have a newer stove, so the lowest oven temp I have to work with is 170 degrees. My last stove’s lowest setting was 120 degrees. I miss that oven. Because, in this case, the slower you can cook the sauce, the better it will taste. So it might take all day, but you won’t have to stand over a hot stove. Unless you want to stick around because your hands are still cold from dealing with frozen tomatoes.

The sauce ends up with this amazing sun-dried flavor. Not a hint of bitterness even though I don’t remove the seeds. (Lazy)

Roast a batch, adding your spices in somewhere along the line. I tend to wait until it is almost “done”. My logic is: some spices don’t like extended cooking. Because I’m going to have it boiling in a canner for another 30 minutes with an additional hour to cool off, the flavor will have plenty of time to release. This allows me to make individualized batches. I just have to remember label them properly after the jars are cooled.

Put the roasted sauce in a suitable (non-metal) container and stick it in the fridge. Repeat until all tomatoes are processed. Then you can re-warm the sauce to a suitable temperature for the canning process.

If you decide to freeze it, reconsider when to add the spices. I make no promised here, as I’ve never tried freezing sauce.

Have fun.

Easy Breezy Simple Summer Salads

Today, the Lazy Cook is offering a new favorite and an end of summer favorite that her mother often made.

The Mister is not a fan of pickled beets. Even though I have one of the best beet recipes in existence, he will pass on them every time. So I have learned to can them in the ½ pint size. I can have them when I like and they don’t end up going soft after sitting open and uneaten in the fridge. The smaller size still allows enough for me and Them Boyz, being Southern raised boys and liking the beets, to share with a meal.

Even with canning you still end up with a few garden stragglers or leftovers that won’t fit in the jars available. So I had to figure out what to do with the rest. A little research turned up a raw beet salad, which naturally I modified to suit my own taste. I made it one evening and utilizing the same logic your mom used to get you to eat your broccoli, I convinced the Mister to “just have a taste”.

Angels didn’t sing, but it was a miracle. He likes raw beet salad. A lot.

Medium sized beets will be your friend here. Although the smaller ones are more tender, they have to be skinned for the recipe. (or not, I guess, if you scrub them well enough?)

A couple of ways to take the skin off of a beet: vegetable peeler and cold vegetable in boiling water dunk. The second works if you are going to cook them anyway, but in this case, you are stuck with magenta fingers. Don’t worry, what doesn’t wash off gives your fingertips a healthy pink glow.

1 or 2 medium sized beet per person. I’d start with one in case you hate it. Peel it and shred it. If you have any kind of food processor, use it. Between the beet juice and the inevitable scraped fingers, a stand up grater could end up giving your kitchen a post shoot-out Quentin Tarentino look.

½ medium carrot per beet. Garden grown is best, as they have a better flavor, but store bought will do. Also grated.

After you have grated the veggies, add about 1 tablespoon per serving of a flavorful olive oil. Some people like extra virgin, some virgin. If you haven’t guessed by now, the Lazy Cook is not a stickler for super exactitude. If taste preferences were a given across the board the Mister would eat my damned pickled beets.

Love Julia Childs, but French cooking, this ain’t.

Now, take the juice of ½ freshly squeezed lemon per serving and pour it over the mixture. Toss it well, coating all the shredded vegetables.

Now I’m supposing you could use lime in this and quite possibly a sharp red or yellow onion sliced super thin. But as I am in no mood to do work I don’t have to, I’ll stick with the basic outline.

The amazing thing about this recipe is how sweet it is. The lemon does a nice job of playing off the sweetness of the beets and carrots and the olive oil gives the musty bottom of the beet flavor a deep note to hang onto. On top of that, the texture is really outstanding.

I don’t think I would care to eat it in the middle of winter as I do with pickled beets. It’s definitely summer fare. As is the next recipe: Tomato, Onion, Cucumber salad.

Gosh, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like this. It’s tasty, simple, cool and it takes everything that is good and right about summer and puts it in one big juicy bowl.

For two people: Take two medium garden ripe tomatoes. They should be ripe enough to have a tomato smell, but not so ripe as to be super soft. Core and cube them.

You can use regular “cucumbers”, but pickling cukes have a better flavor. Yes, they are smaller, bumpier and often hairy but hey, if women can find Donald Trump attractive, understanding my preference for pickling cukes should offer no mystery.

You’ll want about 1 to 1 ½ cups of peeled, cubed (or sliced depending on the diameter) cucumbers.

One medium onion, chopped. I like mine a bit chunkier as I use Vidalias and the flavor balance isn’t thrown off by large chunks of onion. If you are using a stronger onion, you might consider how much you want the onion to weigh in the discussion with your tomatoes; and always in balance with considerations of texture and mouth-feel.

Toss the prepared vegetables together in a bowl. Now add 2 (possibly more) tablespoons of a vinaigrette and mix together. I use French vinaigrette. I have used a light Balsamic in the past and did not find it pleasing to the taste buds.

Whatever you use, please, please, I beg you, avoid anything with sugar. Sugar masks all the flavors that make this salad light and fresh and summery; the tangy tomatoes, the crisp bite of onion and the mellow crunch of the cucumber. It really is one of those dishes that you can just eat as a light meal. Or a snack. Or just because you want a bite. It’s that good.

We had both salads last night along with a tomatillo salsa baked chicken breast, some white rice and steamed green beans tossed with a pat of butter and tamari.

And it was good. Summer good.

Today’s Recipe Mash-up: Barley South-West Salad

(a gluten free recipe) (very easily modified to vegan)

Rachel Ray has a great Barley Salad in her Big Orange Book. Nothing against Ms. Ray, I think she’s fun. But her recipes are…well, not for the lazy. Just reading the book and having to remember what EVOO means generally calls for a nap.

And Donna Klein offered a Quinoa Salad Recipe in some newspaper clipping that is so old it’s almost brittle.

I’ve got barley on hand, but no quinoa. Right now, it’s too warm and sticky for the Quinoa’s call for cumin. For me cumin is warm and heavy; comforting. Like a curried food or fall or winter food. And right now it’s so hot, it’s all I can do not to run around starkers (naked) in the yard. I don’t need warm, heavy or comforting.

One recipe serves 8, the other 4, so some lazy math will be involved to make a 4 person recipe.

So I’ll just pick the things I like, leave the things I don’t and use the things I’ve got.

We’ll see how the Mr. likes it and let you know.

So here’s a basic recipe for a gain and bean salad with some summer veg thrown in

2 cups of chicken stock (or the same amount of water with a little salt and/or wheat free tamari. Then add bacon fat or butter or olive oil …or all 3, but no more than a heaping tablespoon total)

½ tsp. fresh garlic (whatever you’ve got, crushed, chopped. Use less if it’s dried and powdered)

¾ cup of barley (Ms. Ray calls for pearled….I don’t know if mine is and I’m not going to look. It’ll be fine)

1 cup of cooked black beans (or if you are using canned, you can use the whole thing…it’s okay….really. And if you want, you can skip other beans….or not. I like beans, so the more the merrier.)

1 cup of bean X (black-eyed peas are best, but pintos or crowders or some combination thereof will work in a pinch)

1 cup +/- corn kernels

Some ripe tomatoes. Cherry, plum, whatever is on hand. But you’ll need chop enough to fill ¾ cup +/-   I personally wouldn’t like this without fresh, but would understand if you wanted to use canned tomatoes or even a bit of salsa.

Scallions (the last of my onion tops is what I’m using.  Red or white/Vidalia onions in a pinch) thinly sliced and chopped so you get about ¼ cup.

Black pepper to taste

That’s the basic recipe. The little black dress, as it were.  From here you can go a couple of ways; toward the SouthWest or more of a summer salad. Pick and choose to suit yourself. On past the cooking directions are a few things you might add to give it the flair you want.

Bring the stock (water) to boil in a sauce pan. Add the garlic and barley. Return to boiling, and then turn to low, cooking until the liquid is gone. This should be about 45 minutes. (Honestly, I just use my rice cooker and dump it all in at once. Watching a sauce pan is too much work)

When it’s tender (not mushy, barley is great because it’s a tiny bit Al Dente) put it in a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain. Put the barley in the bowl with your dressing of choice (tomato based, oil/vinegar, what have you…I’m easy)

Add other ingredients. Mix, toss or make your kids do it.

Things you might add if you’ve got them on hand:

Fresh or canned Jalepeno to taste: If fresh, get all the seeds out and chop it finely. (WASH YOUR HANDS! Avoid touching your face- or your guy parts, if you’re a guy- until your hands are clean). Fresh Jalpeno? I’m not going there. Too much work. Besides, if I want hot, that’s what burn sauce is for.

Cucumbers: (which I’ve got and will use) peeled, quartered and chopped. I use pickling cukes because I like the flavor. 1 cup +/-

Celery:  chopped chunky, for some texture. If you use the middle stalks, leave the leafy tops on. 3 – 5 stalks

A vinaigrette or Italian dressing: approximately ¼ cup.

Or alternately add salsa or picante sauce to taste: between ½ to 1 ½ cups

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