When I was a small child I liked to cook with my Aunt Rose. She made the best chocolate chip cookies. Hers were thin, crisp, and extra brown on the bottom, just like my uncle liked them. No one in the family could figure out how she made her cookies so extra delicious. She used the same recipe that everyone else in the family used, the one on the yellow bag of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips. My cousin wondered if there was something unique about her cookie sheets or her 1960’s turquoise oven. I liked sitting at Rose’s kitchen table eating chocolate chip cookies and hanging out with her. I felt her warmth and comfort.
Aunt Rose was fun to be with. She had a twinkle in her eye, a big heart, and liked to wear leopard print outfits. She let my sister and I try on her costume jewelry and allowed us to play hide and seek in her apartment. One great hiding spot was behind her giant sectional sofa. The sofa curved around the corner of the room which left an empty spot behind the sofa in the corner.
Another great hiding spot was behind all the junk in the den closet, right next to the World Book encyclopedia and many annual update books. I wondered if she ever read the encyclopedia at night in bed or if she had any use for them now that her children had graduated school. I was always intrigued by the photos in the books and how the company sent update books year after year. Boy, how things have changed since the internet-era.
It’s funny how I remember all these seemingly random things about Aunt Rose’s apartment. But I was a very curious child and found her and her apartment so unique. I was especially fascinated by an air fern that she kept in a small crystal urn in a dark section of her apartment. The plant was green, delicate, and pretty, but it did not need soil, water, or light. I would frequently ask her to explain this plant to me. She said that she put this special plant there because there was not enough light for a regular plant to live in that spot. I still couldn’t figure how this plant didn’t behave like all other plants, but now I think that it was really more like a dried plant and wasn’t actually alive.
Furthermore, I wondered about the bright green astroturf carpet on her balcony. I told her that I could not understand why anyone would want fake grass that didn’t look real. I had my own aesthetic sense even back then, and I hope I didn’t insult her. I guess she was really patient with all my questions because I always felt her acceptance and love.
Recently when I was looking through old recipes, I came across Aunt Rose’s Beef and Barley Soup. I had never made this recipe before, but decided to try it since I really enjoyed all her other recipes. It also sounded like a dish my kids would like. The dish was fantastic and even better than a similar recipe that I have been making for years out of a Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.It’s not surprising that Aunt Rose’s soup recipe is the best of the best, just like her extra special chocolate chip cookies. And this soup dish is perfect winter fare. It’s warm and comforting with extra depth and pizazz, just like Aunt Rose.
|Aunt Rose's Beef Barley Soup: A Hearty, Flavorful Winter Dish|| |
My Aunt Rose recommended buying the flanken meat at Gelson's Market. I bought it from Dey Dey's Best Beef Ever at the farmers market.
Also, I used Bob's Red Mill's Vegi Soup Mix, and Springfield makes a similar one. Rose made hers with a Manischewitz Split Pea and Barley Cello Soup Mix.
Sometimes parsley root is hard to find, but it's worth tracking down for the extra flavor boost it gives this soup. I have found it at Gelson's Market, and sometimes at Whole Foods or the farmers market.
- 2 pounds beef flanken short ribs, generously sprinkled with salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, diced small
- 1 stalk celery, diced small
- 2 large carrots, diced small
- 2 parsley roots, diced small (if you can find it)
- 1 box sliced mushrooms, optional
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup red wine
- 1 14-ounce box or can of strained tomatoes
- 1 cup of Bob's Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix (which includes barley and split peas)
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1 bay leaf
- Handful of chopped Italian parsley for garnish
- Place a large soup pot on the stove, and turn the flame to medium. Generously sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper on both sides. A couple minutes later, add to the pot 1 teaspoon of oil and the meat in a single layer. Brown the meat well on both sides, then set aside.
- In the meanwhile, chop the vegetables. After the meat is set aside, sauté the onion, celery, carrot, parsley root (optional), and mushrooms (optional) in the same oil until soft. Add another 1-2 teaspoons of oil if necessary to moisten the vegetables while sautéing. Sprinkle 2 pinches of salt and several grinds of freshly cracked pepper over the vegetables. When the vegetables are almost ready, add the garlic and sauté for a couple minutes more.
- Then add the wine, and scrap the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cook until the wine has mostly evaporated. Now add the browned meat, tomatoes, soup mix, water, bay leaf, and another 2 pinches of salt and a couple grinds of freshly cracked pepper. Stir together. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and then cover and lower the flame to a simmer. Cook for 1-1/2 hours or until the meat easily falls apart from the bone.
- Remove the meat to a plate. Separate the meat from the bones and connective tissue with two forks or your fingers. Then shred the meat. Add the meat back to the pot. Discard the bay leaf, bones, and connective tissue. Taste the soup to see if it needs any more salt or pepper. Simmer for a few minutes more or up to another half hour until the meat is very tender.
- Serve warm. Garnish with a little chopped fresh parsley, optional. Refrigerate leftovers for a few days or freeze for later.