By Karin Calloway

Karin Calloway is a working mom living in Augusta, Ga., with multiple freelance jobs and a ton of dirty dishes.

Lentil and Barley Soup

From the looks of my recent posts you might think we're some big carnivores at our house. I mean I've shared recipes for spaghetti and meatballs, barbecued brisket and meatloaf in just a little over a week.

But we're actually big on meatless meals, and these high-on-the-beef menus appear pretty infrequently in our dinner rotation.

With the first crisp autumn days FINALLY arriving, this Lentil Barley Soup is more likely to appear on our menu than those meat-heavy meals. It is healthy, filling and very lowfat. I like to serve it with a big green salad and a crusty baguette.

Variations on the soup abound. Go Indian by using red lentils and brown basmati rice in place of brown lentils and barley and then add 2 teaspoons garam masala in place of the cumin, thyme and red pepper flakes. I'd add the garam masala to the aromatics a minute or two before adding the remaining ingredients.

You also can take this in an Italian direction by omitting the cumin and adding 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano along with the thyme. Decrease the vegetable broth to four cups and then add a 1 14.5-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes in its place. Finish the soup with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

NOTE: The photo above was taken without the spinach, which is an optional ingredient.

Lentil Barley Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery, about 2 stalks celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrot, about 2 peeled carrots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic, about 2 medium cloves
  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (use chicken stock for a non-vegetarian version)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 5-ounce bag fresh baby spinach, optional

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and saute until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the spinach. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour, until lentils and barley are tender. Stir in the spinach, if using, and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and serve.

Makes 8 servings