With the cooler weather coming upon us now, that means more of an opportunity to make soups and make some good use of the slow cooker. We made a couple of different soups this week, and the first one allowed me to use some of the dried beans I had picked up that were on sale this past week. I had picked up bags of black beans, Great Northern beans, navy beans and lentils, so I had plenty to work with as I looked for a recipe where I could use different types in one soup. I came upon this recipe from the Food Network for a bean and barley soup in the slow cooker and it sounded perfect.
Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup
1 cup dried multi-bean mix or Great Northern Beans, picked over and rinsed
1/2 cup pearl barley
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning herb blend
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled if large (optional)
One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
3 cups cleaned baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Put 6 cups of water, all of the beans, the barley, garlic, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and porcini mushrooms, if using, in a slow cooker. Squeeze the tomatoes through your hands over the slow cooker to break them down, and add them with their juices. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high until the beans are tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.
Add the spinach and Parmesan cheese, and stir until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
I love a hearty bean soup and this one, with the different beans in, has awesome flavor. It was nice and thick with very flavorful broth from all the vegetables. Adding the spinach and cheese towards the end is a great way to add flavor and make it even more flavorful, but if you wanted to leave them out and just have the bean and barley soup I think it would be just as good. Serve it with some nice crunchy bread and you have a great vegetarian or meatless meal. The soup itself tasted even better the next day after it has had a chance to set and the flavors have melded together even more than the first day, so it has made for some great lunches as well.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another soup recipe as I will go over the nice corn chowder that we made this week. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!