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Dip into hearty soup for more carbs

by Charlie Abowd

After the holiday season, we’re all looking for ways to trim the extra pounds we picked up from the great meals we shared with family and friends to celebrate that time of year.

One of the ways to do this is to have entree-style or hearty soups with a salad course. The recipe we will create today is Wild Mushroom Soup with Wheat Berries.

For those of you who are cutting the carbohydrates in your diet, you can eliminate the wheat berries and substitute wild rice. Wild rice constitutes an acceptable substitution because it is not a grain, but actually a seed, so therefore it contains little or no carbs.

To start the soup, you will need four to five quarts of vegetable stock. I like to make a totally vegetarian stock with onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, black peppercorns and the stems of the cremini mushrooms which are used to make the soup. Place all of the ingredients in a large stock pot with approximately 8 quarts of water and 1 cup of dry white wine. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until reduced by half (4 1/2 to 5 quarts of stock). Use a fine mesh strainer to run the liquid through so you have a semi-clear broth with no particles from the other ingredients. Discard vegetables.

To make the soup, place olive oil, garlic onions, carrots, celery and fresh cremini mushrooms in an 8-quart soup pot. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender or slightly translucent. During this time, place the dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water and soak for approximately 20 minutes. Be sure all of the mushrooms are submerged and stir periodically.

When the vegetable mixture is cooked, add the stock, red wine (if using) and thyme.

Drain the dried mushrooms, chop finely and add to the soup. Cook about 15 minutes at a low boil. What I like to do at this time is use my hand blender. Submerge it in the soup and quickly blend for approximately 3 minutes to give it a creamy-type texture. This procedure is definitely not necessary but presents the soup in an elegant style. Also, if you do this procedure, do not make a roux because your soup will then be too thick. Only make the roux if you are not blending your soup.

Rinse wheat berries thoroughly. To the soup, add the wheat berries, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste. Cook covered at a low, soft boil for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the wheat berries are tender, but still have a snappy texture.

Once the wheat berries are cooked, do the final touches — make the roux. In a 6- to 8- quart, heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt butter and whisk in the flour. Cook to the ribbon stage approximately 5 minutes (should have the appearance of a thick paste). A little at a time, slowly add the soup to the roux, whisking after each addition, until all of the soup is added to the roux. (I like to add a touch of brandy to achieve a warming, yummy feeling in the tummy when eaten.)

When serving, garnish with a dollop of yogurt and fresh chopped chives. If chives are not available, use finely chopped scallions. Sometimes I use a drizzle of truffle oil. I’m certain you will enjoy either of these garnishes.

A salad made of nice frisee (bitter) lettuce with a white wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette with crumbled Maytag blue cheese and a sprinkle of kalamata or Mediterranean-style olives makes a great accompaniment.

A quick note on the vinaigrette, always keep in mind a mixture of 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper mixed in a blender.

For beverages with this soup, I would recommend a hearty beer such as Widmer Brothers Winternacht roasted ale or a full-bodied-style zinfandel such as Ferrari Carano, Ponzi, A. Rafanelli (Dry Creek) or Karly “Warriors Fire” (Amador County).

Also, a good crusty bread is always nice. I recommend an olive loaf. However, for those of you who are watching their carbohydrates, leave the bread out.

As always, cooking is not an exact science so, by all means, if you feel you need to add or delete something then please do.

Wild Mushroom Soup with Wheat Berries

1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin)

2 large carrots, finely diced to 1/4 inch

2 stalks celery, finely diced to 1/4 inch

2 medium-size sweet yellow onions, 1/4 inch dice

1 pound finely chopped fresh cremini mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

4-5 quarts vegetable stock

2 ounces of dried mushrooms (combination of any of these — morels, porcini, shiitake)

1/2 cup red wine, optional

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 cup wheat berries or 1/2 cup wild rice*

Roux: 1/4 cup butter and 1/8 cup flour

* Use less rice because it tends to expand and soak up too much liquid.

Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef of Adele’s. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City for 22 years, where they have raised three children. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur, and Karen is a licensed interior designer.