Lentil, Barley and Spinach Soup

by Rachel on August 2, 2010

Lentil, Barley and Spinach Soup

This dish lies somewhere between a soup, and a stew with a full stop at sublime.  It can be made as a vegan dish.  In our house we like our soups and stews made with chicken broth, so I make this avec broth rather than vegetable stock – but I’m right there with ya if you want to go the other way.  I stand firm in my opposition to broth discrimination.  In either case, this is a hearty, satisfying, healthy dish with an unusual set of flavors and a beautiful look.  It is speckled with barley and beans and fragranced with flavors from the spice trade.  Top it with mint pesto made from 1 cup fresh mint pureed (in the food processor or blender) with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and garlic, or use purchased basil pesto.  Please say a virtual thanks to my friend Judy for putting this recipe together.  My whole family has embraced lentils, in large part because of Judy’s food sensibility.  I’m a little embarrassed that it took us so long to come around to lentils.  It is 2010 after all.  But better late than never.

Lentils and Barley (it sounds like an 80s Cop Show)

Lentil, Barley and Spinach Soup (8 servings)

  • 2/3 cup dried pinto or kidney beans
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup French green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby spinach (or 1⁄2 of a 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained)
  • pesto for garnish (optional – see note in intro)

Rinse and drain the pinto beans.  Place in a large saucepan with 4 cups water.  Cover and let stand overnight. (Or, bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 1 hour.) Drain and rinse the beans.  Add 6 cups fresh water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or large heavy soup pot cook onions in hot oil until golden.  Add the stock, lentils, barley, garlic, turmeric, and cumin.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover; simmer for 1 hour.  Stir in the garbanzo beans, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cover; cook 30 minutes more.

Just the barley Ma'am

Drain the pinto beans.  Stir cooked beans into lentil mixture.  Cool slightly.  Add spinach at last moment so that it just wilts.  Add additional broth, if necessary, to desired consistency. Serve with pesto.

MAKE-AHEAD DIRECTIONS: Make the soup up to 3 days ahead, leaving out the spinach until ready to serve. Cook and stir over low heat until heated through. Stir in spinach, serve and enjoy.

Lentils and Barley (Just like Turner and Hooch but funny)

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