This is soup at its most basic — a great way to use up any vegetables malingering in your fridge. But beware that some vegetables tend to have a colonizing effect on a pot of soup: Squash makes it squashy, broccoli makes it broccoli-y, and dried herbs and tomato make it taste like diner minestrone, not in a good way. If you've got plenty of time, simply dump the barley in with the rest of the ingredients and add a half hour to the overall cooking time. But I'm usually rushing, so I use the two-pot method.
Hands-On Time: 25 minutes
Ready In: 90 minutes
Yield: 10 cups
1/2 cup barley
4 cups chicken broth (a 32-ounce box)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced, or 2 leeks, washed well, halved lengthwise, and very thinly sliced crosswise
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced, with a handful of celery leaves, finely chopped
4 cups other vegetables -- some combination of potatoes (peeled and diced); cabbage, chard, kale, or spinach (finely shredded); summer squash or green beans (finely diced)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or other beans, drained (optional)
Salt to taste
Olive oil and grated parmesan for garnishing
- Place barley and broth in a small pot and bring to a boil over low heat. Stir, lower heat to a simmer, cover, and let barley cook while you prepare the other ingredients, about 30 minutes.
- Heat olive oil in a wide soup pot and sauté onion with 1 teaspoon salt over medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and the rest of the fresh vegetables, and allow this mixture to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes or so.
- Pour barley into the pot with its broth, and add another teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of water. Simmer covered until all the vegetables and barley are tender, about 45 minutes.
- Add canned beans and another cup of water to keep the consistency soupy. Simmer 15 more minutes. Taste for salt, then serve garnished with a spoonful of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan.