Monday, October 14, 2013

Veggie Barley Soup

This isn't a recipe so much as some basic instructions.  What I love about soup is that you can do pretty much whatever you want and it will probably turn out.  You can add more of one type of veggie, skip another one totally, whatever your little heart desires and somehow it works.  Here's the "formula" I use when making veggie soup.

Start with fresh veggies.  I know some recipes call for cans of things or frozen things, but I think fresh always has more flavor.  For today's soup I used leeks and carrots from the farmer's market, kale and parsley from my garden, and mushrooms and celery from the grocery store.

Then chop up veggies that are going to give flavor to the soup broth.  In this case it's my leeks (three of them) and celery (two stalks).  You could also use onions, garlic or any combo of these.

Once you have them into small pieces, add them to your soup pot with a drizzle of oil or a tablespoon or two of butter.  Saute these on low heat until your veggies are tender.  I always add my mushrooms next and stir until tender.  I like mushrooms so I usually use a whole pack, but if you don't like mushrooms, feel free to skip them.  After that, you add your root vegetables.  I used carrots (three, but you can use more or less), but you can also use turnips, parsnips, or potatoes, or again, any combination of these.  I also added a handful of chopped parsley.  Give them a couple stirs and then add your broth.  I usually use 4 to 6 cups of broth.  If I'm using barley, couscous, rice or quinoa, I use more broth than if i use orzo or egg noodles, because grains tend to suck up more of the broth than noodles do.

If you're adding meat, be sure it's precooked it and add it now.  If I use chicken I like to let it simmer on the stove for a while.  You could also use ground hamburger, chunks of stew meat, or a cut up round steak.  I usually just use veggies.

Turn the heat to medium or medium-high, and wait for the broth to start to boil.  Then add your grain or noodle.  Remember that barley and other grains take longer to cook than noodles or orzo will.  Once my pasta or grain is cooked, I like to add a bunch of chopped kale and let it simmer until done.  Once the kale is tender (which only takes 5-10 minutes) your soup is ready to eat. 

This soup tastes great warmed up and it wonderful when you have a cold or just need something warm and yummy.  It's also a good way to use up veggies that have been living in your refrigerator's crisper for a while and are getting kind of wilty and sad.

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