Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Chicken & Barley Soup

There is snow on the ground but the sun is out. That's Spring in Chicago! So today I made a batch of this Spring Chicken & Barley Soup for lunch. This is definitely one to make on the weekend because it too about 90 minutes from start to finish. But it is really flavorful and I have a batch of leftovers that I can take for a healthy lunch throughout the week.

I love the ideas of fresh asparagus and crisp peas in this soup. It is different that regular "chicken noodle" types. But the really stand out part is the sprinkling of basil, orange zest and raw garlic on top. That bit of orange really made the freshness pop.

Spring Chicken & Barley Soup
Makes 4 servings, about 2 cups each

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, divided
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 large bone-in chicken breast (10-12 ounces), skin removed, trimmed
1/3 cup pearl barley
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup trimmed and diagonally sliced asparagus (¼-inch thick)
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
½ tsp. coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup lightly packed torn fresh basil leaves
1 strip orange zest (½ by 2 inches)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Grate or finely chop 1 clove garlic; add to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, chicken and barley. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon. Return the broth to a simmer and cook until the barley is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, shred the chicken or cut into bite-size pieces; discard the bone.

When the barely is done, add the chicken, tomatoes and juice, asparagus, peas, salt and a grinding of pepper; return to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes more.

Coarsely chop the remaining garlic clove. Gather basil, orange zest and the garlic and finely chop together. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with a generous pinch of the basil mixture.

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