Quickest Mushroom-Barley SoupThe soupy combination of mushrooms and barley epitomizes a perfect union, full of robust love and flavor -- indisputably. I made the “Quickest Mushroom-Barley Soup” from the October 2008 issue of Everyday Food, not in the interest of making a “quickie” soup (I did not use “quick-cooking” barley, even), but simply to enjoy this adored soup again. Since I chose to use regular barley, my soup took 48 minutes to cook, rather than 10 minutes. But when a soup cooks itself, this isn’t much of a hardship to bear.

I initially seasoned my mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. At the end, I added another 1 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper to the soup. We adored the mouth-feel of the silky mushrooms. My young child loved this soup.

Pumpkin and Pecorino GratinI was excited to try the “Pumpkin and Pecorino Gratin,” from the same October 2008 issue of Everyday Food, in order to use some of the sugar-pumpkin purée that I froze from the holidays. I learned an important lesson from this recipe: Pecorino Romano cheese is intensely salty and should be used judiciously. Instead of using 2 slices of white bread for my crumbs, I used a pita bread. This made great crumbs in my food processor. I added 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper to my crumb/cheese mix, but as I warned, the added salt was unnecessary.

I baked the gratin for 20 minutes in a small Dutch oven. After tasting the powerful cheese topping, I’ve considered trying dry breadcrumbs mixed with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if I were to make this again. Tell me what you try.

RECIPES: a mushroom-barley soup needs no salesman; work with the gratin to balance your sweet with your salt
PREP TIMES: barley takes an hour to cook (quick-cooking would be quicker!); the gratin is cooked in 20 minutes
TASTES: silky heartiness makes a wonderful soup; sugar-pumpkin sweetness is nice when accented by a crunchy topping and (a little bit) of salty cheese

Who’s ready to try another chili, next time? I will cook the “Fantastic Black Bean Chili,” from Allrecipes.com. Return to my site on Sunday, February 1, to see how fabulous this one is.