Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fast Cheap and Healthy Bean and Barley Soup

To loosely quote Alice Waters, I often wonder why so many people expect ‘food to be fast, cheap and easy,’ but I’ll admit that those are some mighty attractive features to this recipe I adapted yesterday from eatingwell.com. So much so that at around 9:16 in the morning (when, for some reason I’m routinely famished despite having eaten breakfast) it wasn’t but a half hour before I started a version of it with what I had on hand.

Certainly the writing of a magazine recipe for which I’d lost my cooking notes could wait until I quickly prepped this soup – it needed 45 minutes for flavors to develop after all – and that had to happen in time for my 10:59 lunch hour. Forget Greenwich MeanTime, set your watch by my demanding, dominating gut.

Lacking fresh fennel is always unfortunate, but this time it simplified prep on the way to my easy ‘n’ breezy. All I did was chop some onion and garlic and then I was just opening a can of beans, using up a box of Pomi tomatoes, tossing in some fennel seed and was well on my way.

I was just indulging hunger pangs and cravings while searching kitchen cabinets in vain for my long lost notes (a major rarity in my world – momentary misplacement? sure! but Dave Chapelle like disappearance? highly unusual), and had no plans on sharing it here. But as my handsome hubby alternated sips and slurps between a goblet of red and a bowl of beans n barley last night, he encouraged me strongly to post because he predicts his Mom would like it.

So pic-wise what-I-got is this that I had for lunch at the catering company today, in the interest of things I find to be ‘good, clean and fair’ (and potentially mother-in-law pleasing : ) I recommend this procrastination preparation, meatless Monday, or any random reason to make this decent and delicious pot of soup.


Bean and Barley Soup

Yield: about 6 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

honest(ly) good soup


1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 fennel bulb, diced or 2 tsp fennel seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, 1/3 mashed
12-20 oz diced or crushed tomatoes
8 cups vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme leaves or 1 Tbsp fresh
3/4 cups barley
1 1/2 cups frozen cut spinach or 6 cups fresh baby spinach
salt and cayenne to taste


- saute onion (and fennel if you have fresh) in olive oil over medium high heat until translucent and house starts smelling good
- add garlic and (if using) fennel seeds and sauté 1-2 minutes
- add broth, tomatoes, whole and smashed beans,bay leaves, thyme, some salt and cayenne and allow to come to a boil
- adjust to a simmer and add barley
- when it returns to a boil turn down to a simmer and cook for 45-50 minutes
- when barley is cooked taste, adjust seasoning add spinach
- ready to serve in 2-4 minutes

Bean and Barley Soup

Bean and Barley Soup

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