Meatless Monday: Hearty Escarole, Barley, and Parmesan Soup

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I got into a rut last year with Meatless Monday where everything was a soup. Frankly, it’s the easiest thing to assemble when we are talking about a completely meat-free meal. This year, I seem to be stuck in a pasta cycle when it comes to the first weeknight meal of the week. So, to break one rut I decided to reach back to the salad days of soupmaking on Mondays.

As advertised, this is a very hearty soup. The escarole and barley not only give the soup bulk, but a unique flavor that could ordinarily get lost in the mirepoix, tomato or soy sauce.

WHAT WORKED: Parmesan rind. That’s the other thing I wanted to mention. This is a mandatory ingredient. Parm rinds not only bring the salty, nutty cheese flavor to the stockpot, but it helps to thicken the broth. Just make sure to discard before serving because eating this would be disgusting.

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WHAT DIDN’T: Cooking on a Monday night. You could cook and serve this on the same night, but you’ll need an hour to cook and prep. What I would recommend is making this on a Sunday and letting it stand for a day before reheating and serving. This gives all of the flavors a chance to marry and produces a more flavorful soup.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is really good. What are we eating?” I like it when she has to ask that question.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: One of the best parts of this recipe is that it makes about two quarts worth of soup.

2013-11-24 at 14-17-38Hearty Escarole, Barley, and Parmesan Soup
Adapted from Serious Eats

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium stalks celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 large head escarole, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup parled barley
  • 1 1/2 to 2 qts. low sodium store-bought or homemade vegetable
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-3 medium-sized chunks of Parmesan rind
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add rosemary and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add escarole and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated and mixture begins to sizzle, about 5 minutes longer. Add barley and cook, stirring, until coated with oil, about 1 minute.

Stir in broth. Add bay leaves, Parmesan rind, soy sauce, and fish sauce (if using), and bring to a boil. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until barley is softened and soup has absorbed flavor from parmesan and bay leaves, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley. Serve, drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with Parmesan.

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