This is a very simple and tasty soup that is so easy to pull together quickly. I first made it last fall when a friend shared her recipe with me. My husband liked it so much that I’ve made it again and again, trying a few minor variations each time. Like many soups, this one can easily be adapted to suit your taste preferences and whatever you have on hand. No cannelloni beans? Any white beans will do. Here, I used cooked flageolet beans as that’s what I had on hand. You don’t have barley? Farro, brown rice, or Acini di pepe (tiny pearls of pasta) can be used instead. I haven’t tried it yet but I imagine Israeli couscous might work well here too. No chard? Try kale. Want a little kick? Add a little chili pepper. Make it your own and it will be great.
For lunch or dinner, ladle up bowls of this comforting and nutritious soup and serve alone, with rustic bread alongside, or top each bowl with homemade croutons.*
A couple of notes, I often make this soup with just salt and pepper. Other times I also add a bay leaf, thyme and sometimes oregano. Again, it’s easily adaptable to your preferences. Also, you can make this soup starting with a pot of barley, as the recipe below suggests. Or if you already have barley on hand, as I did after I made my Curried Carrot and Apple Soup with Barley, you can make the soup without it. When you’re ready to serve, just ladle the soup on top of cooked barley. (as shown in the photos above)
Chard-Barley Soup with Beans
1/2 cup barley
5 cups water
1 large bunch (1 lb) chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced small or diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/3 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups cooked or canned white beans (I’ve used cannelloni or flageolet)
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
In a large pot, bring 5 cups of water to boil. Add barley and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.
In the meanwhile, rinse the chard well. Slice the stalks crosswise and chop the leaves coarsely.
Heat oil in a skillet over moderate heat and add the chopped onions. Stirring occasionally, cook until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard and some salt, stirring once or twice. Add vegetable mixture and beans to the large pot of barley with water.** Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. You can add more water if it is needed to keep everything submerged. Add bay leaf and thyme. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste and generously season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Serve.
*To make homemade croutons, tear day old bread into small pieces. Toss in olive oil and salt and bake in the oven at 350F until crispy, for about 15-20 minutes. You can turn them after about 10 minutes. If you’re a garlic fan like me, add 1-3 cloves of crushed garlic to the olive oil and salt mixture and toss bread well before baking.
**If you already have cooked barley on hand and want to make the soup without cooking with it, use a large pot to sauté onions and other vegetables. (Follow same instructions for vegetables above). Then add 5 cups of water and beans to your large pot with the vegetable mixture. Add bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Serve with cooked barley.