Aunt Suzy says

It’s soup weather and we love soup here at Sweet & Savory Kitchens.  I received a version of this recipe from The Splendid Table via their weekly newsletter The Weeknight Kitchen – the soup was called Hlelem.  Since I love Middle Eastern food I got busy looking for variations of the recipe online and in some of my cookbooks from that area of the world.  There were many!  Some used chard, some did not.  Some used harissa, some not.  Not all recipes had both chickpeas and lima beans, some just chickpeas.  A recipe called Rechta uses fava beans and chickpeas, along with a whole chicken.  So you might be getting the point that this soup has lots of flexibility.  I took a little from this and a little from that to create this version, which I love for the aromas, the earthy flavor and the beautiful brick color.  We served it with mixed olives, whole wheat pita and hummus.   I thought wine pairing could be tricky – we finally settled on a low alcohol zinfandel from Dancing Bull, which was perfect!

The Soup Base

1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 bunch Swiss Chard

1 medium red or yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)

1 large celery rib, diced (about 1/2 cup)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-2 tablespoons Harissa

2 quarts chicken stock or water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

If using cumin seeds, toast them in a heavy, dry skillet.  Grind in a mortar and pestle to a fine consistency and set aside.  Prepare the chard by separating the stems from the leaves with a knife.  Cut the leaves into ribbons about 1/2-1-inch wide and set aside – this should be about 7-8 cups.  Slice the stems into 1/2-inch pieces – this should yield about a cup.  Coat the bottom of a large dutch oven or soup pot with the olive oil and heat to medium.  Saute the onion, celery and chard stems over medium heat until they soften and start to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and the cumin and saute until fragrant, about 2 more minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir to blend, then add the Harissa and stir to blend.  Add the chicken stock a little at a time, then the lemon juice and stir to blend.  Bring to a bubble, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  COOK’S NOTES:   This can be done a day or two ahead of time if desired.  Heat the soup back up before proceeding to the next step.  I think a vegetarian version of this soup could be easily (and deliciously) made by using water instead of chicken stock.

Finishing and Serving the Soup

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1-15 ounce can drained and rinsed)

1 1/2 cups cooked lima beans (drained canned or frozen)

1 1/2 cups dry fine egg noodles

3/4 cup diced chicken meat (optional)

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Bring the soup base to a bubble.  Add the chickpeas and lima beans.  I used frozen baby limas, which I recommend.  There’s no need to cook them before adding to the soup base.  Simmer, covered,  for about 10 minutes.  Add the chard and the egg noodles and simmer, covered,  for about 7-8 minutes until the chard is wilted and the egg noodles are al dente.  Stir in the chicken, if using, and the parsley.

Ready to serve!  Ladle into large bowls and sprinkle with the cilantro.


Bean-Barley Soup

May 15, 2010

Margaux says

My Aunt Suzy and I have decided to do this blog together! We both love to cook and bake (she more cooking, me more baking), and thought it would be fun and make for a more interesting blog. And of course, it means MORE RECIPES!! 🙂 This is our first joint post. Some of our posts will be joint like this, because many times we end up cooking the same things due to recipe sharing. Other posts will be independent, and I’m guessing that most of hers will be cooking and most of mine will continue to be baking.

I’ve been wanting to cook more vegetarian dishes and when Suzy was down in mid-February I suggested that we make this soup from We had a lot of fun cooking together and as we usually do, we made some adaptations to the recipe.

Aunt Suzy says . . .
I think cooking more vegetarian is a great idea for both health and the pocketbook. And I loved this soup – the unusual flavor, the creaminess of the beans and the unique mix of vegetables. It’s different in a number of ways from most vegetable soups. It doesn’t start with the usual vegetable soup base of mirepoix, instead using ginger as one of the base ingredients. Whoever made this up also took a different approach to the herbs. This adds up to a delicious soup that’s easy, especially if you use canned beans. It was lots of fun to cook this with Margaux while Desi floated around our ankles and generally entertained us.

Just coincidentally, Margaux and I both cooked this soup a second time last week! I made a few more adaptations from the first time we cooked it, the biggest one was I used Trader Joe’s 17-bean+barley soup mix (dried) – thanks Aunt Cindy for the suggestion. At $1.69 for the 1-lb package, I thought it worth a try. I used the entire package of beans after cooking, which was twice the amount of beans called for, so I cut back on the potatoes. It was delicious, but I think I like the original chickpea/kidney bean combo slightly better. Probably the most work of this recipe is chopping the ingredients.

I really like how all the vegetables and then herbs are sauteed together before adding the liquid and beans. Really makes for a great flavor base.

I think this is the kind of recipe that you can play around with and adjust to your taste. It can be more brothy or thicker and you can adjust quantities and types of veggies. I’ve thought cauliflower might be an interesting addition!

Margaux says . . .
The second time I made it, I used a crock pot, which is what the recipe was actually developed for. I didn’t even saute any of the veggies prior to putting it all together in the crock pot. I was very pressed for time (as usual, with a one-year-old), and so I threw it all in and let it cook for 6 hours while I was at work. It definitely wasn’t as flavorful, and I think that if I were going to do it in the slow cooker again, I would take the time to saute the veggies first.

I did put in the soy sauce, this time, and I don’t really think that it made much of a difference. I don’t know that I would bother again.

Barley Bean Vegetable Soup
Makes 8-10 servings

1 ½ cups cooked garbanzo beans (or 1-16 oz. can, drained & rinsed)
1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans (or 1-16 oz. can, drained & rinsed)
½ cup dried pearl barley, cooked according to package directions (save the liquid)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
½ lb green beans, sliced in 1-inch sections (or 1-10 oz package frozen cut green beans)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
½-1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each basil, thyme, marjoram and paprika
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, crushed slightly in a mortar and pessel
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 tablespoons tomato paste
6-8 cups total liquid – can be a combo of water, barley cooking liquid and bean cooking liquid if you cooked dried beans
1 tablespoon Bragg’s Amino Acids or soy sauce (optional)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (optional)

Stovetop Instructions:
In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the oil on medium heat until shimmering.
Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, green beans (if using fresh), bell pepper, jalapeno and ginger. Increase heat a bit and saute for 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add all herbs except the bay leaf and saute for 1-2 minutes more.

Add a little of the water or bean liquid and then the tomato paste. Stir until blended and then add the rest of the liquid along with the beans and the barley – more liquid for a brothier soup and less for a thicker soup. Add the bay leaf. (If using frozen green beans, add here.) Bring to a boil, turn down heat and then simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Slow Cooker instructions:
1. Slow Slow Cooking: You can either sauté the veggies and spices first, then add to the crockpot, or just throw everything in cold, set the crockpot on low, cover and cook for 6 hours.

2. Quick Slow Cooking: Sauté veggies & spices as above, transfer to preheated Crockpot with hot beans, barley & liquid. Simmer 2 – 3 hours on low. Keep your eye on it for the first time, as cooking times vary with crockpot size and make.

To Serve:
Before serving stir in the Bragg’s or soy sauce and the parsley. Serve in your favorite soup bowls along with a crusty bread. A not too tart Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with this soup.