Friday, October 14, 2016

Tuscan Barley Soup

Last Year's Post: Chicken Limone Pasta

I made this soup for a friend who was scheduled for knee surgery so she wouldn't have to worry about having a warm, comforting supper when she got home. When I brought it over to her house and described the contents, her husband gave me a skeptical look and said "sounds healthy". But after they had it for dinner he made a point of calling me to tell me how delicious it was, which made me very happy.  (It's an accomplishment when you can make something that's very healthy AND delicious, even for the skeptics.)  This soup has no less than six different vegetables (interestingly, no potatoes or tomatoes) and the nutritional benefits of barley.  I chose to add some Italian sausage but you could certainly leave it out to go vegetarian.

Your chopping skills will get a workout with those veggies - I timed myself and the prep took about 30 minutes (including time out for pictures, of course).  This would be a perfect little project for the weekend so all you have to do is warm it up during the week when you're tired and it's raining or snowing, and it tastes even better after it sits for a day. Add some crusty bread (and maybe a nice glass of red wine) and you've got yourself a delicious meal.

So, the six vegetables are:  carrots, zucchini, parsnips, leek, fennel and kale.  A somewhat unusual combination, but interesting, don't you think?

After all that chopping, the rest is easy - saute some Italian sausage, toast the barley in the same pot, then dump everything else in and let it simmer for about 50 minutes.

90 minutes after you start, you have an enormous steaming hearty pot of deliciousness.  Not bad.

Tuscan Barley Soup
Serves 6-8

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped chives would make a nice garnish.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 sweet or spicy turkey sausage links, casings removed
1 cup pearl barley
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into ½” rounds
2 medium parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced into ½” rounds
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into ½” sliced
1 fennel bulb, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced (longer pieces may be cut in half)
1 medium leek, white and light green part only, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 bunch of Tuscan kale, center stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 Parmesan cheese rind, optional
1 dried bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prep all the vegetables before starting.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Remove the sausage and reserve.

Add the barley to the pot and cook stirring constantly until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes.  Add 10 cups of broth (reserving the rest for later), carrots, parsnips, zucchini, fennel, kale, cheese rind (if using), bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the barley is tender, about 50 minutes.  Add the sausage back in during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.  Stir the pot occasionally and add additional broth if needed to make the soup your desired consistency.

Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaf, then season the soup with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

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