We’re heading into the depths of winter, folks, and we’re going to need fortification. We’re going to need warmth and comfort and love. Oh, we’re also going to need soup. I love this particular one - its simple, lovely broth has made it one of my very favorites. As it happens, this is also perhaps the easiest in my repertoire of soups. It can be simple and austere, or flagrant in its bounty, whatever your mood or contents of your pantry/fridge.
There is nothing extraordinary about this soup; it's really quite simple. I start with the basics… a little chopped onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste, and herbs which sauté until soft and fragrant. Lentils and barley, and a diced potato go in, followed by whatever beans and veggies I might feel like throwing in. I always seem to have shredded cabbage or fresh spinach around, but also like to add cauliflower, green beans or zucchini. Today I had some leftover asparagus to throw in the pot.
After I get my beans and barley and veggies in the pot, I pour in enough water to cover it all by about 2 inches. Yes, I said water. Just plain ‘ol real water. No need to start with chicken or vegetable stock. We have a pot full of vegetables and aromatics and we'll make our own vegetable stock as this simmers, and one with bright, fresh clear flavors.
Just partially cover the pot (I leave it open just a millimeter) , bring it to a quiet boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer for an hour. After about ½ hour you will begin to notice some very lovely aromas emanating from within. After an hour, turn off the heat, stir, and let it sit for a few more minutes before serving. You can top this with a little grated cheese if you like, but it really doesn’t need it. Oh my. Simple really can be extraordinary.
Bean and Barley Veggie Soup
1 or 2 Tblsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried thyme
2 stalks of celery, with leaves, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup lentils
½ cup barley*
1 or 2 waxy potatoes (like red or white creamer), cut into chunks
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Any chopped veggies you would like to add (zucchini, green beans, cabbage or asparagus
About 7 or 8 cups of water, or enough to cover by 2”
2 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large-ish soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots. Saute for several minutes and then add the dried marjoram, thyme and tomato paste. Add the salt and pepper, stir, and let this saute for a few more minutes.
Add the barley and the lentils and whatever veggies you are adding and then add enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Stir to combine, cover partially, and let simmer for about an hour.
Remove from the heat and let sit a few minutes before serving. Can top with grated parmesan cheese and more chopped fresh parsley.
*Note: hulless barley has more of the whole grain than pearled barley, but either is fine here. If not adding veggies, increase the amount of barley to ¾ cup.