A retired manager in customer service for the Postal Service, he lives in Centereach.
How long have you been cooking? When I was in high school I worked at a Jewish deli in the Bronx. And then I picked up the basics from my mom.
Where do you find new recipes and inspiration? My mom taught me how to make eggplant Parmigiana and broccoli rabe with garlic. I've revised her recipes over the years. I'm always looking for something different, on TV or in books and food magazines.
Where does this beef and barley soup come from? My girlfriend loves beef and barley soup, so I looked at a few recipes and then developed my own. The red wine was my idea, and the Portobello mushrooms. With tasty ingredients, I don't have to add a lot of salt.
Why do you cook the meat, barley and mushrooms separately first? So the ingredients don't overcook and to taste the individual flavors.
I understand presentation is important to you. Making food beautiful is my passion. When something looks appetizing you're going to want to taste and eat it. I cut my eggplant Parmigiana into squares and serve on a silver platter.
How do you make this dish beautiful? I pour the soup into a colorful Italian pasta bowl and garnish it with parsley.
1 pound beef stew meat or London Broil, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup canola or extra-virgin olive oil
4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 quart canned vegetable broth
2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine
8 cups water
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 cup pearl barley
6-8-ounce package sliced Portobello mushrooms
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley; plus more for garnish
1. Combine first six ingredients in a small zipper-lock bag, shake until meat is coated and transfer meat to a plate.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown on all sides, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, carrots, celery, onion and garlic to pan; cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
2. Add beef, broths, wine, 4 cups water and Worcestershire sauce to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups water to boil in another pot. Add barley, lower heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
4. In a small skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Add barley, mushrooms and ¼ cup fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley to soup, cook uncovered until barley is tender, 15-20 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Pour into a large bowl, garnish with parsley. Makes 4 to 5 servings.