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Tomato barley soup with feta and green onion biscuits

This simple tomato soup is chock-full of veggies and flavors. For a weeknight dinner, this soup demands biscuits. Add feta and green onion to your dough for a savory twist.

By In Praise of Leftovers / May 1, 2013

This soup works well as leftovers, and also incorporates lots of staples you're likely to have on-hand.

In Praise of Leftovers

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Three generations. Riding bikes in the sun. 

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In Praise of Leftovers

Sarah Murphy-Kangas is a cook, writer, mother, teacher, and group facilitator. She lives with her family in Seattle, Washington. She started her blog, In Praise of Leftovers, as a way to share her kitchen exploits with friends and family and further explore her obsession with food. Her favorite challenge is to make something out of nothing.

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After our bike ride with Grammy, Poppy, and the kids yesterday, I told Yancey, "This is a very short window. The oldest are healthy, the youngest can ride a 2-wheeler, and the 10 year-old still wants to be with us." A little blip on the screen, really. And all the more precious for it.

After our ride, we came back to the house and grandparents played cards with kids while I made dinner. We have people over a couple times a week, and I usually plan ahead more than I did last night. Nothing prepped, chopped, or even dreamed up.

Enter Refrigerator Soup, though I've named it something else here. A vegetable soup like this: 

1. ... is a wonderful way to pack in oodles of veggies.

2. ... makes great leftovers (not that I have ever devoted any time to thinking about that).

3. ... is endlessly variable.

4. ... makes a pretty picture.

5. .. kind of demands biscuits. I made a divine variation. (See recipe below.)

Tomato barley soup
The great thing about a soup like this is that it's almost impossible to mess it up. Don't go light on the salt, taste as you go, and have fun cleaning out your fridge!

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped or thinly sliced

2 large carrots, finely chopped

1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped

4 cloves minced garlic

2 cans chicken stock (or water)

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/2 head of small cabbage, finely shredded

Few big handfuls of chopped fresh kale 

1/2 cup quick-cooking barley (or 1 cup cooked grain, like rice)

Big handful fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Lots of coarse salt

Pepper 

1. Heat up the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add carrots, red pepper, and garlic, and sauté until soft, about 10 more minutes. 

2. Add chicken stock and tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Stick an immersion blender in and puree about 1/4 of the soup to give it more body.

3. Add cabbage, kale, and barley and cook for 10 minutes. Add basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and add more of anything to taste (including more water if you want your soup thinner).

4. Serve unadorned or with lemon zest, Parmesan, or more basil on top.

Feta and green onion biscuits

These are a riff on my classic biscuits, and will elevate any soup to divine heights. The feta adds some moisture that makes them even fluffier, if that's possible, and the green onions add beautiful little flakes of color.

Makes 6-8, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. I doubled the batch for 6 people, and we had none left over.

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup (1 cube) cold unsalted butter

1/2 cup coarsely crumbled feta

1/3 cup finely chopped green onions

3/4 cup cold milk

Flaked salt and milk for tops

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add feta and green onions and gently mix with your hands.

3. Add milk, and mix with a wooden spoon until mixture just holds together. Knead a couple times in the bowl, then let dough rest for 1 or 2 minutes.

4. Flour a work surface. With a rolling pin, roll dough out into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Fold short ends toward one another, then roll out again until dough is about 3/4-inch thick. With a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds and place them close together in a pie plate on a cookie sheet. Roll out remaining dough the same way and cut out the rest.

5. Brush tops with milk, then sprinkle lightly with flaked or coarse salt. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tops are golden brown and biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot with butter.

Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Pantry Minestrone

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