Saturday, November 29, 2014

Vegetable Soup with Barley & Basil

A simple vegetable soup is what I cooked today. It's what I needed. It's the kind of austere and nourishing soup I imagine monks making with their fresh garden vegetables. They'd eat it at supper time with warm bread. 

Like a cozy fire on a snowy day, this gentle and restorative soup will soothe your wintered soul.  Make a big pot of it when you're in hibernation mode. A soft quilt, a cozy dog or cat and a good movie will add to the enjoyment.  

A clear broth is infused with many vegetables, fortified with whole grains and finished with fresh basil. It's what my body craves after too much feasting on heavier holiday fare. Sometimes all we need is soup and solitude. It's wonderful finished with a sprinkling of grated gruyere or Parmesan cheese too. 

Most vegetables are delicious in this soup. Mushrooms, cabbage even butternut squash will work here. I'd stay away from broccoli and cauliflower though. Use your imagination and what you have in your fridge. 

If I'm too tired to bother with the barley, I eat it with just the veggies and broth. If you're feeling a cold coming on, finish it with a little lemon or lime juice for extra vitamin C. Brown rice, quinoa or small pasta can take the place of the barley. 

Vegetable Soup with Basil and Barley Recipe

This recipe makes an entire large pot. It's featured on Healthy Aperture.

Some Notes

The base of this light but satisfying soup is a mix of vegetables and my favorite clean-tasting vegetable bouillon. Rapunzel No Salt Vegetable Bouillon cubes lend a pure vegetable flavor without salt. They're vegan and just delicious. If you're turning your nose up to bouillon, trust me, you might want to try this product. I buy them online or at Whole Foods and online. I learned about them from the wonderful Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks. When I don't have the will to make my own veggie stock, these are the perfect solution.

You can swap the bouillon for your favorite veggie stock or broth, but then you must not use the water in the recipe. Instead of the water, use 8 cups of vegetable stock or broth.  

Layers of flavor are created by adding the vegetables in stages then finishing the soup with fresh Thai basil. Thai basil is stronger and spicier than regular basil. It works well against the mellow barley. But any herb you fancy will be fine. 

If storing it for workweek meals, keep the barley in a separate container and add it to your bowl of soup when heating it up. I always keep my grains and pasta separate from my soups so that they don't turn to mush in the broth.

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 medium zucchini, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 baby carrots or 2 large carrots, sliced
  • A handful of green beans (about 25) , chopped into small pieces.
  • 1 sweet potato or regular potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 red, orange or yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of frozen or fresh corn
  • 1 cup of frozen or fresh peas
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 dried bay leaves. Remember to remove them at the end of cooking.
  • 1 package or 8 cubes of Rapunzel No-Salt Vegetable Bouillon Cubes (see notes)  
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 cups of instant barley, cooked according to the package directions. You can also swap the barley for brown rice, pasta or quinoa. 
  •  Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste 
  • To Serve: regular basil, Thai basil or fresh dill, grated Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, crusty bread, squeeze of lemon or lime juice 


Cook the instant barley according to the package directions and set aside.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a deep soup pot and saute the onion, carrots, celery, pepper with salt and pepper on medium heat until soft. It helps to occasionally turn down the heat and cover the pot. Add 8 cups of water, the Rapunzel bouillon cubes, dried bay leaves and salt to taste. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the sweet potato, corn and the green beans and cook until the potato softening. Finish by adding the zucchini and the peas to the pot. Cook until the zucchini is tender crisp and the potatoes are soft. Stir in a few tablespoons of the cooked barley to the soup. Remove bay leaves. Serve the soup with more barley and fresh basil or any of the above suggestions. 

Bon Appetit!

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