Gluten-Free Vegan Lunch: Quinoa Mushroom Soup

This is a gluten-free riff on the more common mushroom barley soup. Today it's finally a little cooler, and a warm but not over-filling soup like this seems like it's going to hit the spot. Bread is in the toaster while the family plays Halo, and I'm trying to get this posted fast while the soup cools. I'll leave the fact that my 10 year-old son is already much better (after playing it twice) at Halo than I am for another post.

Here are your ingredients (this made enough for 4 and took about 35 minutes):

Olive oil
1 white onion
1 package mushrooms (any variety, but baby bellas will give a slightly richer flavor)
Worcestershire sauce (vegan gluten-free variety)
Balsamic vinegar
Yellow miso paste
Quinoa (regular white)
Potato starch (optional)
A little fresh chopped rosemary would be nice--a little will go a long way.

I made this soup in a large, cast-iron, enameled pot. Cast iron is my favorite material to cook in, hands down. It's heavy, too, so I don't feel bad about skipping the gym when I cook with it. Bonus! Also, an immersion blender comes in very handy for this recipe. If you haven't got one already, consider investing in one. A relative gave one to me years ago, which I thought was a bit eccentric at the time, but now it's one of my favorite kitchen tools.

Pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot and give the onions a slick bed to lie in. Don't be stingy. Olive oil is good for you, and it won't make your soup taste funny. Dump in your chopped onions with the heat on low-ish and throw a little salt on them. The salt will help them to release their liquid and soften. You want them to cook, but not so fast that they get brown and crispy bits when you have to run away from the stove to help your kid logon to Halo. Those brown and crispy bits will be bitter. Having said that, when the onions get away from me I carry on anyway and it turns out well enough.

While the onions cook, prep your mushrooms. Do not wash the mushrooms. I know, they have little gritty bits on them. Just get a cloth or a dry paper towel and brush it off. Mushrooms are like sponges and if you wash them they'll soak up all that water, which they will then release into the pot when you cook them, and instead of concentrating their lovely flavors you'll stew them prematurely. Once you've brushed off the dirt, slice them up, not too thick, so that they'll cook well.

After the onions have become limp and somewhat shrunken, turn the heat up to medium and throw in the mushrooms. Add a little more salt, and splash in enough Worcestershire and balsamic vinegar to have some liquid sizzling in there. You should be able to hear the cooking happening now, and there should be a little steam coming up from the pot. Here's how my pot looked as the mushrooms cooked:

In around 5-10 minutes it all should have reduced to this:

Now it's time to add in the liquid--good ol' water. I put in about 4 cups for starters and then got out the immersion blender and went after it. If you need to use a blender instead, just work in batches. The cool water should have cooled things down enough that splatters won't hurt you, but be careful anyway. It's better not to blend it to a puree. I like my soups a tad toothy. Here's how mine looked when I was done with it:

Put in some more water for your quinoa and then sprinkle in a couple handfuls. Stir, see what you think, maybe a little more would be better? Up to you. Put the lid on for a gentle simmer. If you want to add a bit of rosemary, now's the time. Also a spoonful of the miso for a little extra umph in the flavor. You know the quinoa is cooked when you see the pale little grain tendril in a circle with the expanded grain. You can see them floating there like tiny o's in the bowl at the top of this post. That soup is done.

You could garnish this with some chopped flat parsley if you have any (or fried parsley or sage--yum). Pretty much any herb will work with this soup. We had it plain with crusty gluten-free toast and butter spread. My husband was cutting up some arugula for a salad while I was cooking this, and that would probably make a nice garnish too. Or a dollop of the cashew-based NeChevre (should be PasChevre, but I won't quibble) would work well, too. Or some tofutti sour cream. I'll stop now.

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