"Oh Sh*t, My Bowl is Empty. That Sucks!" Soup

(a.k.a. Smokey Soup with Some Shrimp, Some Sausage, Some Barley AND SOME HEAT)

While jumping up and down to Raise Your Glass by P!nk in a Zumba class, my New Year’s resolution changed from, “This year I will exercise more, eat healthier, eat less, blah, blah, blah”  to “This year I will do things that are good for me because they feel good.” (Read about my resolution shift here.)

As part of this new resolution, I sifted through my index cards to find recipes that are good for me, make me feel good and are like Zumba:

Fast. Fun. HOT!

The first is based on a jambalaya recipe from Cooking Light: The Essential Cook It Tonight Cookbook. Over the past couple of years I’ve changed it up so much that it is no longer jambalaya but is instead a hearty but healthy stewy soup with a touch of smokiness and a little heat.

Oh, don’t let barley’s usually-long cooking time scare you off of this easy weeknight dinner. I use the quick-cooking stuff* and the meal comes together lickety-split.

Serves 4 as a main course.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion (like vidalia), chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 ounces (about 2 average-sized links) of chicken kielbasa (or any smoked chicken sausage), in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper (or 1/2 tsp of fine grind)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf (2 if they’re small)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley (like this. Find it near the boxes of couscous and rice pilafs at the  grocery store.)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1-14.5 ounce can petite dice tomatoes (regular dice is fine too. Petite is my preference for quick-cooking meals.)
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
  • 3/4 lb large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice

In a large Dutch Oven, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, the bell pepper and the kielbasa. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is just starting to brown, 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic, smoked paprika, black pepper, oregano, thyme, salt, bay leaf, jalapeno pepper, and the barley.

Cook while stirring for 30 seconds.

Add the broth, water, tomatoes, tomato paste, and the hot sauce (if using). Over high heat, bring pot up to a boil. Stir, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Uncover and add the shrimp. Stir lovingly. Cover and cook 5 minutes.

Remove pot from heat but keep it covered, letting everything stay cozy together for 5 minutes more.

Just before serving, stir in the green onions, cilantro, parsley and lime juice.

(Alternatively, don’t add the last four ingredients to the pot. Instead, put the green onions, cilantro, parsley and some lime wedges into separate little serving bowls allowing everyone to sprinkle and squeeze into their own bowls to their heart’s content. Garnishing together at the table lets everyone in on the creative adventure.)

Got leftovers? Cover and refrigerate. By morning the barley will have soaked up most of the liquid leaving you with a barley stew sure to stick to your ribs. Depending on how much barley was left in the pot, it may even work as a side dish (perhaps alongside some blackened catfish or a seared chicken breast sprinkled with cumin and drizzled with lime juice).

*You’re right. I’m not usually one for instant-this or quick-that. But I like the quick barley because it lets me bring my favorite grain to the table on days when I don’t have a lot of time. It’s still a wonderful whole grain with lots of fiber, texture and flavor. Here’s the weird thing: The quick barley has a flatter shape than regular barley (either pearl or pot). Due to this, I almost feel as though it’s a different food entirely and so I’m not as freaked out wondering what they’ve done to make it cook so fast.

Chris from Cook the Story

Why Cook the Story? Because stories that make you drool are better than those that don't!

© 2011 Christine Pittman. All rights reserved.

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