September 19, 2011

Vegetable Barley Soup

In the DC area this week, fall gave us a sneak preview of what's to come during the next couple months. Notice I don't say that fall has arrived. Anyone who has lived in DC for longer than a year knows that fall always teases us in September. We get a couple cool days and nights, we open the windows, and rejoice that the stifling sticky summer is gone. Then summer laughs in our face and says, "I'm not done with you suckers! That's what you get for building a city on a swamp!" (Side note: It turns out that DC was not built on a swamp, although it is a myth that won't die. If you have ever been to DC in the summer, I am sure you'll agree that there must be some truth to that myth.)

Anyway, I decided a soup was in order to take the chill off (no matter how low the temperature goes, I refuse to close the windows during the first couple days of cooler weather). I wanted to use up the majority of the CSA vegetables that have been languishing in the fridge and was craving barley for some reason, so I came up with this vegetable barley soup. It turned out quite delicious. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had had a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind to throw in.

Vegetable Barley Soup
Makes a ton of soup (about 10 cups)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced celery (I would have used more, but my celery from week 14 had mostly gone bad. This celery was the most flavorful celery I have ever tasted. One word: potent.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, diced (from week 13, it was still in perfect condition!)
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, slightly mashed (I would recommend mashing the tomatoes in a bowl with a potato masher, or your hands.)
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth and 2 cups chicken broth (The vegetable broth was leftover in the fridge, so I wanted to use it up and I didn't have more vegetable broth in the pantry, so I had to use some chicken. You could definitely use all vegetable or all chicken broth and 4 cups would be fine.)
2 cups diced peeled potato (I used all of the potato from week 15, I would probably use less next time)
1 cup pearled barley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a couple minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds - 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 or so minutes, or until softened.  Add the bell pepper and cook for another couple minutes.

2. Add the mashed tomatoes, their juice and the broth. Bring to a simmer and add the potatoes, barley, bay leaf, oregano and 1 tsp salt. Cover and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the barley is tender and the potatoes are cooked. (I wanted the potatoes to keep their shape and not become mush, which is why I added them towards the end.)

3. Taste for seasoning and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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