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Jerusalem, Again

I had to wait until (almost) February to post this recipe for Hot Yogurt and Barley soup. I didn’t want it to be mistaken for some sort of food cleanse or resolution—it contains barley, after all. Every January I am surprised by the intensity with which magazines are pushing “healthy eating”. I guess the idea is that if we drink juice for the month of January we can eat what we want the rest of the year? That seems like a stupid plan. Some food magazines are even profiling [1] celebrities who only drink juice (and plankton) and who seem to generally dislike food (and joy?). Why??! What does the new year do to all of us?!

Back to the recipe, which comes from a little book that you’ve probably never heard of, Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Just kidding! All anyone talks about is Jerusalem. With good reason, it is perfect. This soup is the kind of recipe that makes your lunch guests nervous. Hot yogurt doesn’t necessarily sound appetizing and to finish the title with barley just ruins everything. Luckily my friends are good sports and agreed to try this with me. Of course we liked it, because this cookbook would never do us wrong. This Armenian soup is similar, in a way, to avgolemono [2] soup which is so popular in Chicago’s Greek restaurants. Here, the tang comes from yogurt rather than lemon, but the results are similarly satisfying. We served it with that spinach and date salad [3]that I can’t shut up about. It was a really nice lunch, and not a juice in sight.

Hot Yogurt & Barley Soup (from Jerusalem [4] by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)

Place water, barley, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the barley is al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve 5 cups of cooking liquid. (I drained my barley and measured the liquid and then recombined the two, but you can just wing it)

While the barley is cooking, saute the onion and dried mint over medium in the butter until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the onions and butter to the barley and water.

In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk together the yogurt and eggs. Slowly mix in some of the barley and water, one ladle at a time, until the yogurt has warmed. This will temper the mixture so it doesn’t separate/curdle. Add the warmed yogurt to the rest of the barley and water and return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until the soup comes to a light simmer. Do not boil! Remove from heat and stir in the herbs and green onions. Check the seasoning, you’ll need to add salt and pepper. Serve hot, garnished with extra herbs or green onions, if you like.

Serves 4-6