Corn, Bean, and Barley Soup

corn, bean and barley soup

This recipe is based on one from Deborah Madison's 'The Savory Way,' a vegetarian cookbook that I love, from the Greens restaurant in San Francisco that I also love -- restaurant and city both. I was initially attracted to the soup because she uses words like "sustaining," "deeply nourishing," "effortless," and "prehistoric" to describe it. Prehistoric! Without the herb drizzle, it's like eating hot cereal -- good or bad, depending on your feeling about hot cereal; I don't personally recommend skipping the herb drizzle. I also serve it with the addition of roasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch.

Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 2 hours (including soaking time for beans)
Yield: Serves 8


    For the Soup:
    1 cup dried kidney beans (or 1 25-ounce can (or 2 15-ounce cans) kidney beans)
    1 cup barley
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 stalk celery, chopped
    1 quart chicken broth (or veggie broth, or more water)
    6 cups water
    2 cups frozen corn kernels

    For the Herb Drizzle:
    2 loosely packed cups parsley (leaves and small stems)
    Small handful of celery leaves
    1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
    1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
    Freshly ground black pepper
    2 teaspoons white vinegar
    1/4 cup olive oil


  1. For the soup: Either soak the beans and barley together overnight, or forget, and use the quick-soak method: cover them with plenty of cold water in a pot, bring them to a boil, turn off the heat, and leave them to soak for an hour or so. If you are using canned beans, don't soak them!
  2. Now, warm the oil over medium-low heat in a soup pot and sauté the onion, garlic, and celery until they are softened and getting translucent -- around 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add the soaked beans and barley (again, not if you are using canned beans! Don't add them!) along with the broth and water, then cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Lower the heat, set the lid partially ajar, and simmer the beans and barley for half an hour.
  5. Now stir in 2 teaspoons of kosher salt (half as much table salt), then partially cover the soup again and simmer until the beans and barley are completely tender -- for half an hour or so, or until tasting tells you they're tender.
  6. Stir in the corn and -- finally! -- the canned beans, if that's what you're using. Then simmer another 5 minutes, taste for salt -- it will need some, and if you don't add it, it will be very porridgy -- and serve with the herb drizzle
  7. For the herb drizzle: In a food processor or blender, whir together all the ingredients but the olive oil until fairly smooth. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream and whir until blended.

Read more about Catherine making Corn, Bean and Barley Soup with her family.

See more recipes from Catherine Newman at her "Dalai Mama Dishes" blog.

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