When I was a kid, I took ice skating lessons at a local rink called The Winter Lodge. I started when I was four, in the baby class, which was offered in a small, indoor rink the size of a classroom. The main purpose of the beginner class was to learn to move from one side of the room to the other without falling on your face. Over the next seven years, I skated through the different levels onto the big outdoor rink and eventually became a pretty good skater, although not competition material.
Mostly, I liked the trappings of the skating world: the pretty white skates and sparkly outfits, as well as the weird chicken soup you could buy for 25 cents from The Winter Lodge's ancient vending machine. I was also completely obsessed with the movie Ice Castles, which came out in 1978, when I was five. It's about a beautiful blond figure skater named Lexie, who, in a tragic accident, loses her sight, and then has to learn to skate all over again, but blind. Why I was watching movies like this when I was five is beyond me, but it probably helps explain why I'm a little mental as an adult.
Looking back, I suspect this movie was a big piece of garbage. But when I was little, I liked to pretend I was Lexie (pre-accident, natch), skating around to a fabulous soundtrack, my long ponytail flowing behind me as the crowds roared.
What does this have to do with food? you're wondering. Well, one of my favorite things to eat when I came home from ice skating was my mom's beef barley soup.
This weekend I got the craving for it, I think because of the Olympics. Watching the skating had me thinking about the old Winter Lodge and coming home after practice to a warm bowl of delicious soup. I had to settle for a different recipe than my mother's, though, since hers takes the better part of a day, and I didn't decide on making the soup until about 4 pm. Luckily, that old cookbook I love, Firehouse Food, came through for me yet again.
The soup was rich and meaty, full of vegetables, and thickened from the barley. We ate it with big slices of good sourdough bread while watching the Olympics, and I recommend you do the same.
Beef barley soup
From Firehouse Food
2 T. olive or vegetable oil
1 lb. London broil or beef chuck, cut into 1/2" cubes (I used 1-1/2 lbs)
salt and pepper
1 small onion, small dice
3 stalks celery, small dice
1 large carrot, small dice
1/4 c. chopped parsley, plus 1 T. for garnish
6 c. beef broth
1 c. pearl barley
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
3 bay leaves
1/2 t. dried thyme
In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the oil and brown the beef in small batches, seasoning each batch with salt and pepper. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned meat to a bowl, leaving as much fat in the pot as possible.
Once all the meat has been browned and removed, add the onion, celery, carrot, and parsley to the pot; cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
Return the beef to the pot along with any juices that have collected in the bowl. Add the broth, barley, tomatoes (with their liquid), Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, put the cover ajar, and simmer 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water if the soup becomes too thick.
Skim any fat that has risen to the surface of the soup, discard the bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the remaining parsley.