Adventures in Eating: Chorba

“Chorba” is a word reminiscent of my childhood and a strong reminder of my Armenian roots. Mother often related sto­ries of her mother making a cauldron of “chorba” to feed the family of seven with a nu­tritious and economical meal.

Soup is the closest translation I can give “chorba”. Yet it also connotes “hear­ty, satisfying, wholesome” and a lot more. It is a “stick to your ribs” soup.

It was cold in the old country, with no means of preserving foods except cold cellars. Broth was preserved in jugs, cov­ered with fat, and set in the cold. Foods varied little from season to season, as they were dependent on what was grown locally, plus what items could be dried.

The winter months are with us, at least on the calendar. However, regardless of California temperatures (colder for all of you in the northern parts), one needs to warm their inner souls with soup. Just a simple broth, with tortellini bobbing about (Contadina is found in most stores) is hearty fare when teamed with crusty french bread, cheese, butter and a tangy salad. Broth can be made ahead and fro­zen, or canned broth can be used, and is not too disagreeable.

If you like yogurt, you will love this “chorba”. When prepared with rice, it is considered a cure for all ailments.

YOGURT SOUP WITH BARLEY

1/2 cup pearl barley

4 cups beef or chicken broth, or water (canned broth is fine)

salt to taste

1/4 cup butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint or

1 tbsp dry mint

2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1 to 2 cups unflavored yogurt, depending on thickness desired

1 egg, beaten

1 clove crushed garlic, optional

Soak barley in water overnight to soft­en. Drain. In a saucepan bring your liquid to a boil, add the barley and salt, lower the heat, and cook until tender.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and saute until golden brown, stirring fre­quently, and add garlic last. Remove from the heat, stir in the mint and parsley, and add to the soup. Mix well.

Pour yogurt into a deep bowl and stir with a large spoon until smooth. Beat in the egg and mix thoroughly. Gradually stir in a little hot liquid from the sauce­pan into the yogurt mixture. Slowly pour the mixture into the saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until well blended and heated through. Do not let soup boil. It will curdle. Serve hot.

Variations: substitute rice for barley or 1 1/2 cups 1/4″ noodles for the barley. Enjoy!

– Rosemarie

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