Bring on the barley
My nose was running, my eyes were watering and my chest was tight. It was a full-blown change-of-season cold and I was feeling miserable. I knew there was only one thing that could make me feel better - a steaming hot bowl of soup, preferably hom...
My nose was running, my eyes were watering and my chest was tight. It was a full-blown change-of-season cold and I was feeling miserable. I knew there was only one thing that could make me feel better - a steaming hot bowl of soup, preferably homemade.
I didn't have time to throw a chicken in a pot and spend most of the day waiting for soup. But I did have barley in the pantry along with a can of black beans. I remembered the beef and barley soup that my husband used to rave about years ago. One of his co-workers would bring a slow cooker full of the thick soup to share at lunch time. Lucky for me, his wife put the recipe in our church cookbook, so I've continued to make it over the years.
My soup-making skills have improved a bit with each pot of homemade comfort I've concocted through the years. I've learned that sautéing a mixture of onions, carrots and celery, often referred to as a mirepoix (meer-pwa), enhances the flavor and aroma of the soup. Browning a meaty soup bone before cooking in liquid can also bring wonderful flavor.
Barley, one of the oldest culinary grains, offers a sweet, earthy flavor similar to oats. It goes well with onions, garlic and strong herbs. Most of the barley we bring home from the store is pearled to produce a small, round white nugget of endosperm. The chewy texture of barley is perfect, especially when you don't want to add meat to the soup. As the soup simmers, the starchiness of the barley acts as a natural thickener.
And, remember, barley can help you get one of those 3 to 5 servings a day of whole grains. In her book, "The New Whole Grains Cookbook," Robin Asbell says that barley was one of the most revered crops in Stone Age China, and it returns to stardom today with the lowest glycemic index rating of any grain. This means barley releases carbohydrates more slowly into the gut and will keep you feeling satisfied longer. Barley is a good source of soluble fiber, including beta-glucan, which helps reduce cholesterol levels and supports digestive health.
All beans are exceptionally healthful foods when it comes to their protein and fiber content, but it's the color coat on black beans that gives them potent antioxidant power. In Bean and Barley Soup, you can use any bean that you like. One thing to keep in mind is that the darker the bean's color, the higher its level of antioxidant power.
My Bean and Barley Soup doesn't look much like the slow-cooker soup shared by a generous man at work. It's a more healthful, updated version. I like the soup with no beef, just a bit of a rich, meaty flavor from the bone and the broth.
As I curled up on the couch under a warm blanket, with a box of Kleenex right beside me, the soup simmered on the stove, sending tendrils of rich aroma through the house.
I've been eating Bean and Barley Soup for three days. I can breathe again. My eyes are clear. I think I will live. And after eating the same thing for several meals, I still love this soup. And my husband gave it a rave review.
Bean and Barley Soup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1½ pound beef soup bone
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
¾ cup medium pearled barley
10 cups beef broth, divided
2 bay leaves
1 cup diced, seeded tomato
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat canola oil in a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add soup bone and brown on all meaty sides, turning as needed. Remove bone from pot and set aside.
Add celery, onion and carrots to hot oil remaining in pot and sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic, jalapeno and barley and sauté for 2 more minutes. Place soup bone back into the pot. Pour in 8 cups of broth. Add bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until barley is tender, about 1 to 1¼ hours.
Remove soup bone from pot. Add remaining 2 cups of broth, tomato, black beans, thyme and basil. If you have a meaty bone, pull some of the meat, if desired, and add to soup at this time. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Tips from the cook
--To make this soup vegetarian, skip the soup bone and use vegetable broth rather than beef broth. You'll have a delicious soup.
--A cup of chopped whole tomatoes from a can may be used instead of a fresh tomato.
--For meat lovers, add 1 to 2 cups of diced, cooked roast beef.