Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lentil Barley Soup

You may have noticed that we eat a lot of soup around here. But when it's 15 degrees outside, I have 3 sick children, and it's only the beginning of February, my favorite thing to see on the table in front of me is a steaming bowl of soup and a hot slice of bread to dip into it.
Soup also gets bonus points in my kitchen because it's so versatile. You can change, tweak, eliminate, add, puree, and generally remake most soups to be anything you'd like, without worrying about the precision measuring that's so crucial to good baking. This soup is particularly easy. You can make it vegetarian, or you can toss in your leftover pot roast. Canned tomatoes are good...or not. Lots of broth, or thick like a stew - you decide. So feel free to experiment, and then tell us what you did!

3-4 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
9-12 cups vegetable or beef broth (feel free to use bouillon cubes or soup base)
1 cup dry brown lentils
1 cup dry pearl barley
1 can diced tomatoes, or 2-3 whole tomatoes, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and celery in a large soup pot over medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are translucent and beginning to get soft. Add garlic and continue to saute, still stirring, for another few minutes. Add broth (more broth will create a soupier soup, while the smaller amount will make it more like a stew). , carrots, tomatoes (if using) lentils, and barley and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to med-low, so that it sits at just a simmer, and cover. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, until lentils and barley are tender. Check it every 15 minutes or so and stir to make sure the barley is not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Let sit for a few minutes, and serve. This will thicken even more overnight as the barley continues to absorb more water.

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