Lentil, Barley, and Coconut Soup

lentil barley soup

Of course I can't write about soup in June without giving the giant disclaimer that it's felt like March around here. I've talked to lots of people this week who report feeling low. I think we've been teased--a few great days in May, getting our hopes up for summer, then sucker-punched with this constant, COLD drizzle. It's good, however, for distracted gardeners who don't think to water their vegetable starts until they are barely hanging on. (I've heard about those kinds of gardeners. Can't imagine.)

I had to make a quick soup yesterday for a potluck tonight. Never a wasted moment in a mother's life. These are the sorts of soups for which I would never think of running to the store. It's got to come from the pantry. A jar of lentils, can of coconut cream, onions and garlic, the ubiquitous canned tomatoes. Presto. There were definitely more exciting things at the potluck--a raw corn salad with avocado (delicious, Steve!), an ambrosial apple cake Dara made, Geoff and Sheila's perfectly roasted chicken. So I'd never say this soup stole the show, but it fit the "vegetarian main dish in a flash" mandate and was pretty damn good. The Leftoverist still has it in her (in case you were wondering).

P.S. Any recommendations for good summer reads? A page-turner that's not too sad, but not total chick-lit? Fiction or non-fiction, maybe a female protagonist. Descriptions of food in the text are a plus. Deal-breaker: cannot include anything about kids being abused. I'm not in denial about that happening, but don't want to spend my whole summer sobbing into kleenex.

P.S.S. I have plenty of kitchen failures I don't write about here. It's a personal preference, I guess. I've noticed I don't particularly like reading about other bloggers' failures. For Pete's sake, I want recipes that work! But here's a few failures for you--Mark Bittman's whole wheat quick bread from Food Matters. Passable flavor, but an absolute murder weapon. Woe is she who gets hit over the head with that thing. And I tried making Italian pasta in my wok--way too much stuff in there, all steaming up to a pretty boring mess.

Lentil, Barley, and Coconut Soup
You can leave out the barley here and just use more lentils if you want, and you can leave out the coconut milk and sub more water (though you probably won't get as many compliments).

2 c. lentils, rinsed
1/2 c. barley
olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece fresh ginger, finely chopped or minced
2 tsp. good quality garam masala
pinch of red pepper flakes
juice of one lime
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can coconut cream or 1 can coconut milk + 4 Tb. brown sugar
tomatoes and cilantro for garnish

In a large stockpot, saute onion in olive oil until softening, about five minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and garam masala and saute for about 5 minutes more, adding a splash of water if onions are sticking.

Add lentils, barley, and enough water to cover by about 3". Bring to a boil, then turn down to a lively simmer until lentils and barley are tender, 35-40 minutes, adding more water if needed. Add coconut cream, tomatoes, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and salt to taste. If you'd like your soup to be thinner, add a bit more water. It will thicken as it sits, too.

To serve, garnish with chopped tomato and cilantro.