Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rainy Day Lentil & Barley Soup

When the first rains begin to fall in San Francisco each autumn, it's a signal for me to spend a few hours in my kitchen preparing a big pot of homemade soup. This lentil & barley recipe will fill your kitchen with a delicious aroma and keeps well in the fridge for quick re-heating all week long. If you've planned ahead and can pre-soak the barley for even a few hours, the cooking time will be shorter. But this recipe is so easy to assemble that a little more time for cooking will hardly be noticed.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup leek, sliced
1 large carrot, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, diced
1 handful parsley leaves, chopped
1 large bay leaf
1 cup French lentils
2/3 cup barley
6 cups fresh water (plus extra as needed)
1 14 ounce can organic tomatoes, whole or crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1 tablespoon white miso paste
3 or more cups fresh leafy greens, chopped (spinach, chard, arugula)

Heat olive oil in a heavy soup pot and saute leek, carrot, celery, garlic and parsley until golden and fragrant. Add remaining ingredients (except miso and greens) and bring to a simmer. Place a flame tamer under pot, cover, and cook on medium heat for at least an hour or until barley is completely tender. ( If necessary, add a bit more water if soup is too thick). In a small bowl, dissolve miso paste in a few tablespoons of soup and return to pot. Taste soup and correct seasoning. Just before serving, add greens to pot and heat until wilted, about five minutes. Serve soup in warm bowls. Garnish with a little fresh lemon juice, tamari soy sauce, or Louisiana hot sauce.

Note: As I was working on this recipe, an old English- American nursery song came to mind, a reminder of a long ago time when people composed and sang songs about farming:

"Oats peas beans and barley grow, oats peas beans and barley grow, Can you or I or anyone know, how oats peas beans and barley grow...?"