Vegetable barley soup to warm up Meatless Monday

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​​​No one's saying you have to go meatless just because it's Monday -- but as an incentive to join the growing Meatless Monday movement, we're featuring an animal-free recipe each week.

This vegetable barley soup is beef-broth-free -- but the cooking sherry and barley miso add a full-bodied flavor to the plant-based recipe. It's perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold, snowy day, especially when served with crusty bread to sop up the juices.

You will need:

1/2 cup raw hulled barley 7 cups water (more, if needed) 3-4 tablespoons olive oil 2 onions, chopped 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 large potatoes (4 small potatoes) 2 stalks celery 1 red bell pepper 2 carrots 1 cup green beans 1 large yellow squash 1 1/2 cup mushrooms 1/4 teaspoon marjoram 1/2 teaspoon thyme 2 tablespoons cooking sherry 3 tablespoons barley miso ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the barley in a medium saucepan with three cups of water; bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours (until the barley is tender). Drain. (You can do this step in advance.)

2. Prepare your vegetables for the soup. First, dice the onion. Slice the potatoes. (We like to use red potatoes; they add a nice color to the final product.) Slice the celery stalks. Dice the red pepper. Slice the carrots. Cut the green beans into one-inch pieces. Slice the squash. Slice the mushrooms. 3. Warm the oil in a large soup pot, then saute the onions and salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about eight minutes. In the meantime, heat a kettle full of water until it boils, then set aside. 4. Add the potatoes, celery, bell peppers, carrots, green beans, squash and mushrooms, and saute with the onions for about two minutes. 5. Add the marjoram, thyme and sherry, and cook for another two minutes, stirring all the while.

6. Pour enough hot water from the kettle to cover all the veggies in the soup pot.

7. Spoon the barley miso into a small, heat-proof container. Add a ladle-full of hot water to the miso and mix, stirring until the miso is thoroughly absorbed into the water. 8. Add the miso to the soup, crack in some black pepper to taste, then cover and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, until the veggies are tender. 9. Add the drained barley and cook for another five minutes or so; the vegetables should all be tender, and the broth should be rich and savory.

Serve with fresh chopped parsley, with scallions scattered across the top of the soup -- or just as is.

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