Did You Know? Grains found in pits and pyramids in Egypt indicate that barley was cultivated there more than 5000 years ago. The most ancient glyph or pictograph found for barley is dated about 3000 B.C. In fact, Historians report that up until the 16th century, barley was the most important grain on the European continent. It was also used as currency and as a measuring standard.
Trying to keep my promise of cooking more from the magazines I subscribe to, this next recipe is from a past issue of Body and Soul, a division of Martha Stewart. If you're not familiar with the magazine, I definitely recommend checking it out. It's full of useful health and wellness information, workouts, recipes, and sustainable living advice, but with that Martha Stewart flair we all love. The pictures are beautiful, and the companies and products featured somehow seem to make their way onto my grocery list each and every week.
This particular soup recipe has become a family staple ever since I first made it many months ago. I don't know why I never shared it here, but I'm guessing it's because I never got around to photographing it before the pot was empty. I'm always looking for thick and hearty soups to prepare. Something that will fill me up on its own, and not as a side to some other dish. With 19 grams of protein, and 12 grams of fiber, this soup is nutritious and satisfying.
The original recipe calls for spelt, but I substituted that with barley since its what I had on hand. We all like the flavor so much, I have yet to make the spelt version. That, and I've never seen spelt offered at any of my local grocery stores. I also top it off with cilantro instead of parsley. Mainly because of my recent obsession with this wonderful herb. Other than that, I followed the recipe pretty much to the T. Starting any soup with a mirepoix is almost a guarantee that you'll end up with a flavorful bowl. And the creamy chickpeas work wonderfully with the nutty barley and the spicy tomato broth. It also makes for great leftovers. Just make sure you have some extra broth on hand, because it thickens up substantially in the fridge. Served with a nice salad and fresh loaf of bread, lunch could not have been better.
Adapted from Body and Soul Magazine
1 cup barley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
2 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
Rinse barley clean under running water. Place in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for 1 hour; drain.
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add bay leaves, paprika, cumin, barley, broth, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes or until barley is tender.
Add tomatoes and chickpeas and cook for 20 minutes or until flavors have blended. Discard bay leaves. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving.