Imagine an iron pot hanging over an open fire, bubbling with this hearty, fragrant soup, so similar to the ones many of our ancestors used to make. It offers plenty of simple, healthful whole-grain and vegetable nutrition, and only needs a salad and a loaf of bread and maybe a wedge of good cheese to complete the meal.
This is the kind of nourishment, ease, and simplicity we crave in winter: many a Wise Woman knew how to make a steaming pot of Granny’s Vegetable Barley Soup to keep the cold away.
1 onion, diced
Inner stalks and leaves of a head of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
2 1/2 quarts good-quality vegetable broth or water
1 cup barley
1 bay leaf
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
1 large can (30 ounces) tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with juice
1 1/2 cups seasonal greens–kale, chard, collards–coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt to taste
1. In a large soup pot, saute the onion and celery in oil until tender and starting to brown. Add broth or water and bring to a boil.
2. Rinse barley under running water and then add to boiling soup stock. Add bay leaf and simmer one hour, until barley is tender.
3. Add potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and tomato juice to soup. Simmer about 1 hour until vegetables are very soft. Add more water if necessary.
4. Just before serving, add greens and basil, cooking until greens are just tender. Add salt to taste.
Serves 10 to 12.