OKAY! Last month I said that I never make New Year’s Resolutions, because I don’t keep them. And here is the reason why: I made myself a promise that I will pay more attention to this blog and try to write something, if not daily then at least twice weekly. And guess what? It has been more than a month since I wrote the last one. That is hardly once a week, let alone twice a week. Let’s see if I can redeem myself and start keeping that promise now. ‘One Dish Meals’ was my theme last month and I am going to continue it this month. And maybe I can get myself to do something every day. If it becomes a habit then it will work.
Since it is still Winter in most parts of the Western Hemisphere (not So. Calif. though) hearty soups are great to make and eat. You can make a big pot for a family or a small one for just two people. I used to make those great big ones since I had 5 boys to feed, but now that it is just my husband and I (except when the kids drop in) I usually try to make a smaller one. Quite honestly, even though my children have been grown for several decades now, I still find it difficult to cook in small batches; therefore, whenever someone comes over, there is almost certainly something (leftover or otherwise) in the refrigerator for them to eat.
All that aside, here is the process for the Vegetable Barley Soup. Bear in mind that you can use any kind of vegetable that you may have on hand. This is a wonderful way to clean out the refrigerator and make way for future shopping trips. Since we live in Southern California, the Farmer’s Markets operate all year round and the nearby farmer’s stands are open also. In addition, our Super Markets do carry locally grown produce.
MAKING THE SOUP:
Start with the Barley by cooking it either in Chicken, Beef or Vegetable Stock or even Water. Follow the cooking directions and time on the package the Barley comes in. Be sure and cook it until it becomes tender enough to eat – this will probably take about an hour or more.
While the Barley is cooking, search the Vegetable Bin in your refrigerator and/or your freezer for Bags of Frozen Vegetables. This is a good way to use up those open bags that have been partially used. Wash, peel (if necessary) and dice or slice your Vegetables. The method of cutting will depend on the Vegetables you are using and also your personal preferences. Be sure and use an Onion which will give tremendous flavor to your soup.
Heat your Soup Pot over low heat while the Vegetables are being prepared. Once all the Vegetables are ready, you can start by sautéing the diced Onion in a small amount of Olive Oil or Butter, if you prefer. Olive Oil is the healthy way to go and has great flavor. Sauté the Onion until it begins to brown – the longer it browns the more flavor that will be imparted. Just don’t cook to the point where it starts burning or the flavor will be ‘burn’. Onions have a lot of natural sugar so that when you sauté them, the Sugar helps to caramelize the Onion – a light color will give a light flavor and a darker color will give a heavier flavor. In the photo below left, Onions and Mushrooms are being sautéed. In this case, I used only Mushrooms Stems as I had used the caps for another dish.
Other Vegetables that are good to sauté before adding the liquid is Celery, Mushrooms, Leeks and Garlic if you want Garlic in your soup. Just go easy with it so that it doesn’t overpower everything else.
In the photo above, Carrots and shredded cabbage was added along with peas and frozen corn. If using frozen vegetables along with the fresh, add the frozen Vegetables at the end of the cooking period – do not let them cook more than 5 minutes. Again, use whatever you have on hand. Once the Vegetables are sautéed and the Barley is fully cooked combine the two mixtures. For seasoning Basil, Bay Leaves Salt and Pepper may be added. Add the Bay Leaves to the Barley while it is cooking and if you use fresh Basil, add it at the end, just before serving. If using dried Basil, then it may be added once you add the Cooked Barley and Broth to the Vegetables. Season according to your own tastes. In the soup pictured, Vegetable Juice was added for more flavor. Tomato Juice may also be used.
This is a good hearty winter soup that if served with fresh bread can actually be your complete meal. If meat is desired, sliced Chicken Breast or any leftover meat may be used. If desired, ground Beef may be sautéed along with the Vegetables. If you are a Vegan or Vegetarian, cook the Barley in Vegetable Broth or Tomato Juice or just plain Water. If desired, tiny Pasty may also be added.
Try this dish tonight! It is easy to make, delicious to eat and nourishing!