I went totally crazy with the vegetables and I cut up everything that was in my fridge and what I bought in the supermarket. I realize that this is a lot of vegetables and a lot of cleaning and chopping but so worthwhile. I added spicy turkey sausage but if you would like you can keep this totally vegetarian, and vegan if you leave out the cheese rinds. The magic ingredient in this soup is the “cheese rind” it adds another dimension to this soup for sure. I just cut off the end (rind) of the parmesan cheese hunk of cheese! Amazing flavor!!!!
I used vegetable broth because I had it, you can use chicken broth as well.
This is what I did.
Don’t be put off by the shopping list and the chopping. You, your family and friends will be forever grateful.
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sweet or spicy turkey sausages ( large ones)
1 cup pearled barley
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into app. 1/2″ thick rounds, cut however you like, I just like to taste a piece of carrot in my soup
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds as well
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch slices , leave the skin on
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced ( don’t omit this , it adds amazing flavor)
1 medium leek, thinly sliced and washed well
One bunch of Swiss Chard, remove the center stem and chop leaves
1 Parmesan Cheese rind, optional
1 dried bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives , I didn’t have fresh which I recommend but I used dried, it’s really OK if you omit , just adds one more layer of flavor to the soup.
In a large stockpot ( Le Creuset), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon into small pieces, I like to brown the sausage, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the barley and stir constantly until it is lightly browned, app. 3 – 4 minutes. Add the broth, carrots, parsnips, zucchini, fennel, leeks, chard , bay leaf and cheese rind. About 1 teaspoon kosher salt and about 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. You will taste for salt and pepper again at the end. Bring the whole thing to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered until the barley is tender . I cooked for about an hour.
Remove the rind and bay leaf and discard after the first hour. Season the soup with remaining S & P if desired. You may also want to add a little liquid if it’s too thick, you can add more broth or just some water will work as well.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the cooked sausage and chopped chives.