Enjoy this very simple, refreshingly tart soup as a light spring greeting for lunch or dinner.
For the Soup:
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely minced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
- 1 cup plain yogurt (Greek-style okay) – at room temperature
- Black pepper to taste
- Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)
FOR THE CILANTRO-WALNUT PESTO
- 1 cup walnuts
- ½ teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
- 1 cup firmly packed cilantro (leaves and smaller stems)
- Scant ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Optional Additional Toppings:
- Minced fresh mint
- Chopped walnuts
For the Soup:
- Combine the barley, water, and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a medium-large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the barley is tender – about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, then add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the onion and cumin and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and continue to sauté until the onion becomes very soft – about another 5 to 8 minutes.
- When steps 1 and 2 are done, add the sautéed mixture to the barley mixture, and simmer them together, covered, over lowest possible heat, for about 10 minutes – to meld the flavors.
- Stir and/or whisk the room-temperature yogurt into the hot soup until it blends in completely. Season to taste with black pepper, and serve right away, with a heaping teaspoon (or more) of the pesto added to each serving. If desired, you can also top with scatterings of fresh mint and minced walnuts.
For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:
- Place the walnuts in a blender or the small bowl of a food processor, and grind to a coarse meal.
- Add the garlic, cilantro, and salt, and continue to run the machine until it becomes a uniform green paste (some light walnut texture is fine).
- Run the machine while you drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate until use.