Red Bean & Barley Soup

January 18, 2010

This post was written by Sarah of SmartBitches

Last week I mentioned one of my favorite cookbooks, “Saved By Soup,” which I keep for exactly one recipe: Red Bean and Barley Soup.

In addition, this recipe is the single reason I own a immersion blender. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I make this soup a LOT in the winter. It’s very easy, I can keep the ingredients in the house with little trouble, and it’s delicious – and it needs about 30 minutes to cook.

So, let’s get started.

You need: olive oil, pearl barley, water, one small saucepan, one dutch oven, onion, kidney beans, broth, salt, and parsley if you have some.

You’ll also want an immersion blender, or a potato masher if that does not seem to be among your kitchen appliances.

I use Goya beans, because they are inexpensive and the kidney beans are HUGE. Goya stuff generally rocks, and I learn the Spanish name for everything if I didn’t know it already.

Dice your onion, and saute it until softened in a little olive oil in the dutch oven. Oh – and this is the part I don’t have a picture of. Rinse the barley in a colander, then put it in a small saucepan. Cover the 1/2 cup of barley with water and put it on to simmer for about 5 minutes. It helps soften the barley before you toss it into the soup. Let them simmer for 5-8 minutes, then take them off the heat. The cookbook recipe says you should rinse them again (but that 2nd rinse is not mandatory).

Rinse the red beans while the onion cooks. Rinse them. Rinse them again. Rinse them bad until they’re all good because otherwise: Too salty.

Toss the beans and broth into the dutch oven with the onion.

When the beans and broth have cooked for about 15 minutes, and you can totally fudge that by 10 minutes if you have to, grab Ye Olde Immersion Blender and use it to break up the beans. You can break them up almost entirely, or only a little bit – depends on how much you like whole beans in your soup. Us, we love whole beans.

Toss the barley in, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer it for about 30 minutes until the barley is tender. Keep an eye on it, and stir every now and again, so it doesn’t get all stuck to the bottom. If you want to add meat, this is a good time – toss it in and let it cook with the barley, keeping an eye on the whole thing for sticking and burning and cooking.

Serve with chopped parsley or a swirl of olive oil or a giant piece of bread. The leftover soup is even better, if that’s possible, the following day. Especially if there’s sausage up in there.

Happy eating!

Printable recipe ahoy:

Red Bean & Barley Soup

1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped
4 cups (or 2 cans) red kidney beans, rinsed omg like rinsing has never been done before
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup of parsley

Optional additions:
2 cups of white beans (substitute for 2 cups of red beans)
Sweet Italian sausage, taken out of casings and crumbled into soup when time to cook for 30 min
Hot Italian sausage – same thing

Cover barley with water, rinse off, and put in small saucepan with water to cover. Bring that to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Chop onion, and saute over medium heat in a dutch oven or 4 qt stockpot until soft (2-3 minutes). While the onion is cooking, open cans of beans and RINSE RINSE RINSE OMG RINSE like you’re using Breck conditioner and it’s not coming out of your hair.

Add beans and broth to pot. Bring to boil and cook for 15 minute (or 10. Or 5).

Grab immersion blender and turn off heat on stock pot. Break up the beans with the blender – or with a potato masher, or if you really like doing dishes, use a slotted spoon to transfer some or up to half of the beans to a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Me? Immersion blender, baby.

Add the barley to the soup, bring to a boil again, and then simmer for up to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until barley is all tender and the house smells so good you want to eat the atmosphere. If you want to add bits of sausage or meat, do so when you add the barley, and keep an eye on the liquid level and the sticking-to-the-bottom thing.

Makes 6 servings, or four if you’re hubby and me and you have big ass soup bowls.

Happy eating!

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