I wanted something a little less ambitious after the last couple of recipes. I'm not overfond of tomato soups personally, but my family loves them, and I figured this one sounded interestingly chunky and encouragingly simple.
The recipe comes from Nava Atlas' quirky cookbook American Harvest: Regional Recipes for the Vegetarian Kitchen. This is yet another one from my mother (I swear I have actually bought some of my own cookbooks in the last twenty years). I really like reading this cookbook because, as you can kind of see in the last photo, it is full of funny little pencil drawings and snippets from historical cookbooks and other sources. But I hardly ever cook anything out of it, which seems like a shame. It just doesn't quite match up with my usual cooking style, although it's much less stereotypically American than most of the internet since it relies on fresh unprocessed ingredients and does not contain any mention of either Velveeta mock-cheese or cream of lark's-vomit soup. But I now have a list of recipes I like the sound of (including the Virginia Peanut Soup on the facing page), so hopefully I shall use it more often, since I can't bring myself to put it into my cull pile.
2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium turnips or 2 smallish potatoes, peeled and diced (I used potatoes)
2 large stalks celery, diced
One 28-ounce can imported plum tomatoes with liquid (1 used 2 x 400g tins)
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
3 tbsp fresh dill (I didn't have any)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. And the onions and saute over a low heat until they are golden. [Endeavour not to get distracted and burn the crap out of them, especially if they were your last ones, because otherwise you might have to go to the lengths of emptying them out of the saucepan into a colander and scrubbing out the saucepan before putting the slightly singed pieces back in, and that would be just silly.] Add the barley, carrots, turnips or potatoes, celery, tomatoes with their liquid, bay leaves, and water. Turn up heat to bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/4 hoursstirring every 20 minutes or so [I didn't cook it for that long; probably only 45 mins]. At this point the barley and vegetables should be done, or nearly so.
Add the dill and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, another 10 or 15 minutes...Adjust the consistency with more water, if necessary [it was]. The soup will thicken as it stands [oh boy, did it just]. Adjust the liquids and seasonings if necessary, but let it stay nice and thick.
Filling and tasty. We served it with grated cheese on the top, which worked well. I could have added more water before serving, but I liked it as a stew. Will probably make again, anyway.