Vegetable Barley Soup

Vegetable Barley Soup

Yup, more soup. The other day I mentioned that I’d used the leftover White Beans with Sage to make a vegetable-pasta-bean soup (the last of which I had for lunch today). Not long before that was Overnight French Onion Soup, and during this ridiculously snowbound winter I’ve been revisiting many of the highlights of Soup Week 2010. And yet somehow, on a dreary, drizzly, slushy Saturday, I felt the need to make still another pot of brothy goodness.

The very first recipe I blogged about, more than six years ago, was soup—in fact, it was another Vegetable Barley, but a much more complicated (and much less parent-friendly) version using roasted vegetables and an ingredients list as long as my arm. The one I’m talking about today is exponentially simpler. You soak some dried mushrooms in hot water to make a nice deep flavor base. While they’re soaking chop some vegetables—and really, almost any vegetables will do. Sweat them down a bit, add some barley, some herbs, some broth, and those soaked mushrooms (along with their liquid). Cover, simmer, come back, eat. That’s my kinda recipe.

And what do you know: Harry actually ate some! Barley and broth only, thank you, but I’ll take it.

Vegetable Barley Soup
Serves 4, and doubles well
Weight Watchers: Each serving is 4 PointsPlus

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced small (also good: celery, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, winter squash, broccoli)
1 zucchini, diced small
6 to 8 crimini mushrooms, sliced
salt & pepper
1/2 cup barley
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme

  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a large glass measuring cup and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Set aside while you chop the vegetables.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. When it shimmers add the onion, garlic, and carrot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook another 3 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook another 3 minutes.
  3. Add the barley and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Stir to combine and cook another minute or two.
  4. While that’s going, pluck the porcini from the hot water and chop finely, then add to the pot. Pour in the mushroom soaking liquid—but be careful not to add the gritty sediment at the bottom. Add the broth and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. When the timer goes off, add the thyme sprig and simmer another 15 minutes, until the barley is soft but not mushy. Remove the bay leaf and thyme stems before serving.

MAKE BABY FOOD: Texturally this is great for babies—everything’s quite soft. You can either puree some soup & some solids, or serve the solids as finger foods—don’t serve the solids & liquid together (ie, don’t spoon unpureed soup into baby’s mouth) unless you’re sure she can handle having both textures in her mouth at once.