I am all about warming soups this time of year and here is a heartier variation of my frequently requested Simple Barley Soup. True comfort food when the nights are damp and cold like they are in Seattle right now.

One of my favorite things to do is find locally grown or produced specialty foods. I absolutely love the lentils from the PNW Farmers Co-op in Eastern Washington right near the Idaho border. Check them out on their website at Davidson Commodities. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you should be able to find some of their beans and lentils in the bulk section of your local natural food store.

Use hulled barley in this recipe instead of the more refined pearl barley. We also have some lovely Oregon and Montana grown barley available in several co-ops in the area. I think I may have seen them at Central Co-op in Seattle and Tacoma and the Olympia Food Co-op.

Warming Barley Lentil Soup

3/4 cup hulled barley, rinse and soak overnight in water to cover
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
postage stamp size piece of dried kombu or kelp
1/4 cup brown or french lentils, pick through for small rocks and rinse well
6 cups water
1 stalk celery, sliced
1-2 carrots, diced or sliced into half circles or triangles
1 1/2 cups chopped green cabbage
1 Tbsp unpasteurized miso, or to taste (I like South River miso)

1.  Strain the barley and save the soaking water. Set aside.

2.  Place a large, heavy bottom soup pot on low medium heat. Add the oil when the pot has warmed. Add the onion as soon as a little piece sizzles gently when placed in the oil. Cook the onion about 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add the barley and saute with the onion for about 5 more minutes. Add the water, lentils and kombu. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about one hour. Add more water during this time if needed to keep the barley and lentils covered. I usually cook it for a long time and just keep adding water.

3.  After the barley, lentils and onion have cooked for at least one hour, add the celery and carrot. Cook until the vegetables are close to being soft. Add the cabbage. Add more water if you want a lighter broth or leave it thick and serve as a stew.

4.  Put the miso into a dish and stir in a few tablespoons water. Turn the soup to your lowest heat and add the miso. Stir well. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more miso if desired. Simmer gently for 3 more minutes. Serve.

Serve soup with a hearty sourdough bread or homemade biscuits and a side of greens.

Other chopped greens, like kale, can be added to this soup 10 minutes before the soup is done.

Garnish with chopped parsley, green onion or naturally fermented sauerkraut.