Nothing heralds soup season like an early Noreaster, and the cold, rainy assault of ghastly unpleasantness it brings with it.
In weather like that, I miss barley. More specifically, I miss me a bowl of warming, filling and comforting mushroom barley soup in all of its earthy, satisfying glory. I’ve come to terms with the fact that wheat has gluten, but et tu, barley?
As fate would have it, I was walking through a health food store last weekend and I spotted an unusual vaccuum-packed bag of some strangely named grain-looking product called “Job’s Tears.” Immediately, I notice this grain looks exactly like pearled barley. I read the label. It reveals frustratingly little about this unusually-named food, except to confirm that it is, indeed a grain. From Japan. And it is best used to add some heft to slow-cooking soups. Cautiously optimistic (I’ve been hurt by grains before), I buy these so-called Job’s Tears and promptly return home to start the research.
My own eyes welled up with tears when the grain list on the Celiac Sprue Foundation website confirmed what I had been hoping: the grain called “Job’s Tears” (aka: Coix seed, Hato Mugi, or Adlay) is not only gluten-free, but it serves as a perfect substitute for pearled barley in recipes.
What are Job’s Tears and where can I buy them?
Job’s Tears, like other cereal grains, is a grass. In this case, it is a tropical grass native to parts of Asia (but since transplanted to some parts of the U.S.) that got its nickname from the tear-like shape of the grain it produces. The ones I bought are white, meaning that they have already been hulled. Apparently, however, one can readily find the brown (unhulled) version sold in Japan. Your best bet to find them in-store would be an Asian supermarket. Otherwise, look online.
Gluten Free Mushroom "Barley" Soup
Serves 4. Double the recipe if you wish.
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 1/4 lbs mixed mushrooms of your choice, stems removed and reserved and caps sliced (For reasons of economy, I use mostly cremini or button and then top them off with a few exotic species for sex appeal. Adding some reconstituted dried shiitakes adds nice texture, too.)
- 5 cups cold water if using barley, 6 cups if using Job’s Tears
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 cup Job’s Tears (gluten-free) OR 1/2 cup pearled barley (gluten-full)
- 2 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
- Heat 1 TBSP oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add mushroom stems and sweat 5 minutes until soft and releasing liquid.
- Add water and wine and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat, cover, simmer for 20 minutes. Fish out the stems with a slotted spoon and set the stock aside in a separate pot.
- Using the original soup pot, heat remaining 1 TBSP oil. Add onion, celery and carrot and sweat until soft, 4 minutes or so.
- Add thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir to coat veggies.
- Add sliced mushroom caps and saute 5 minutes until soft and releasing liquid.
- Add the stock and the Job’s Tears OR barley. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer for 1 hour until the grain is tender.
- Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and garlic.
- Fish out the bay leaf and serve!