Mushroom Soup and the Phantom


In case you have not noticed lately, it is starting to get a bit nippy outside, with the temperature fluctuating from cold to warm, cool to hot, and then back to cold again.  This is the time of year in Virginia when no one is quite sure what to wear outside and when the sales for tissues and handkerchiefs skyrocket.  It is time to cook up a big pot of chicken soup for the soul, not to mention the nose, except for one thing – chicken soup has never done much for me when I have had a cold. I have discovered, instead, a  soup that is going to be my soul pleaser and nose warmer for this year, and the only chicken in it is some chicken broth used in the preparation.  Without further ado, please allow me to introduce:
Mushroom and Barley Soup
(Prevention Magazine, November 1999)

1 oz dried mushrooms                                                     1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cups water                                                                     2 cans (14 1/2 oz ea) chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped                                                     1/2 cup barley
2 carrots, chopped                                                            1/2 tsp salt
1 celery rib, chopped
12 oz cremini or button mushrooms,
Stemmed and sliced

In a saucepan, bring dried mushrooms and water to a boil.  Remove and let stand 15 min.
Coat a Dutch oven w/nonstick spray.  Add onion, carrots, and celery.  Coat lightly with nonstick spray.  Cook over medium heat, stirring some for 3 min.  Add cremini mushrooms and oregano.  Cook, stirring some,  for 6-8 min or until vegetables are soft.  Add broth, barley, and salt and cook for 10 minutes.
Line a mesh sieve with a coffee filter or paper towel and strain the dried mushroom water into the pot.  Remove and discard the filter.  Rinse the dried mushrooms under running water to remove any grit.  Chop the dried mushrooms and drop into the pot.  Cook for 10-15 min or until the barley is tender

As good as this soup is, what made it all the better for me was an accompanying wine I had with it.  Every fall, Bogle Vineyards in California puts out a limited production of wine called the Phantom.  This blend of petite syrah, old vine zinfandel and old vine mourvedre has become a cult favorite with many followers hounding wine shop keepers as to when the annual shipment of Phantom is going to arrive.

A strong red with a dark ruby color whose richness is matched only by the taste of dark fruit flavor with just the slightest hint of the well known zinfandel sweetness balanced by the spice coming from the petite syrah is immediately evidenced at the initial stages of tasting.  The classic taste of the mourvedre rounds out the flavors in the mid range with a medium finish wrapping up the entire experience.  It should be noted that the zinfandel and the mourvedre grapes in this wine are from old vines (approxiamately fifty to eighty years old) which, though they do not produce as much fruit, produce a very concentrated taste.

Now before all you carnivores turn your nose up at this dilectable feast, you need to try it.  The soup has a taste that even Ed Simmons’ political menagerie would enjoy.  Granted this is a leftist vegetarian type of dish, the mushrooms combined with the concentrate strained off the hydrated mushrooms gives it a meaty savor guaranteed to please even Ed’s Chloe in her present state of mind.  Pardon my fascination with the Simmons’ animals but my Jack Russell, Molly, is very apolitical probably because I do not allow her to drink water from the Herring Creek Swamp.

For those of you who missed this year’s installment of The Phantom, fear not, next year will hopefully bring another release just as good or better.  Wine of this caliber brings me to my knees praying that the Lord of the Harvest blesses the fruit of the vines.  Good wine with a soul pleasing and politically unifying soup makes one wonder, does it get much better than this?  Bring on old man winter!

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