Barley Soup with Seasonal Vegetables

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 45 minutes

It is tempting to think of barley soup as quintessential winter fare. But when you let the season dictate your choice of vegetables, the heartiness changes dramatically. Start with the basic recipe here, which calls for root vegetables, augmented by the warm flavor of sage. The combination is just what you want on a cold winter day.

Now fast-forward to the summer variation that follows and base your soup on a sampling of tomatoes, corn, zucchini or other summer squash, peas, okra, and eggplant. Garnish it with fresh basil, and suddenly barley soup doesn’t seem quite so wintry.

2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup pearled barley

6 cups vegetable stock or water

About 2 pounds root vegetables turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, celery root, waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold or fingerling, alone or in combination peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

01 Put the oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the barley and cook, stirring constantly, until the barley starts to toast and stick, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat so the liquid simmers, cover, and cook until the barley begins to soften, 10 to 15 minutes.

02 Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the root vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer again, cover, and cook until the vegetables and barley are very tender, another 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the sage and cook for another minute or two. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Variations

Barley Soup with Summer Vegetables. No limit to what you can use here, instead of or along with root vegetables: Use tomatoes, corn, zucchini or other summer squash, peas, okra, or eggplant, either alone or in combination. Substitute 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves for the sage, adding half with the vegetables and using the rest as a garnish.

Barley Soup with Roasted Seasonal Vegetables. More work, but more sophisticated and flavorful too: Heat the oven to 450В°F. Peel and chop the sampling of root or summer vegetables. Put them in a roasting pan, drizzle with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast, turning once or twice, until browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the soup as directed, simmering the barley until just tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, taste, and adjust the seasoning.