I realize that the last thing most people want to eat right now might be hot soup. As summer in your area is fast approaching or already here, you probably are eating things to cool you off, not warm you up. Well, summer is definitely not here in the north western region of the US, even though it likes to tease us, so soup was on the menu.
My body was craving tomatoes like mad this week, so I finally made a quick tomato soup to cure the craving. I have not eaten a fresh tomato since the end of summer last year, straight from my garden. Once you have enjoyed this pleasure, there really is no reason to buy the tasteless, grainy-like texture ones from the store, it's just not the same. I still didn't use fresh here, but the flavor was exactly what I needed. Plus, I put my little basil plant to work.
Like your classic tomato and rice soup, but I substituted some pearl barley in for the rice, that I pulled out of the freezer from a previous nights dinner. This reduced the cooking time way down, since I didn't have to wait for the barley to completely cook. Use rice if you prefer and if you don't have anything precooked I would suggest putting in only a half cup uncooked grain, bring everything to a boil, than cover and reduce to a simmer for another 20-30 minutes depending on what type of grain you used. Once late summer rolls around and there are plenty of delicious fresh tomatoes, this would be a perfect use for them.
Tomato and Barley Soup
Adapted from The Essential Vegetarianserves 4
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 28 ounce can stewed tomatoes
2 cups cooked pearl barley
3 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or a stockpot over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and basil. Saute, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they simmer down into a thick sauce, about 10 minutes. Puree the mixture using an immersion blender or food processor. Return it to the heat.
Stir in the barley and vegetable broth. Simmer, until everything is heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.