Jan 22

When you are eight months pregnant and spend most of your time chasing an unruly toddler around the house, the few precious hours to yourself are usually not spent on your feet. So when I found myself devoting a good hour to peeling and dicing a small mountain of root vegetables the other day I knew it was a labor of love.  My new infatuation is with a book called “Love Soup” by Anna Thomas whose recipes are chock full of seasonal vegetables, whole grains and homemade broths. The author is so passionate about her soup, and its ability to satisfy and heal, that her descriptions read like poems and make you want to devour every page.

Winter is no doubt a season made for soups, and pregnancy is a season in life that begs for a bowl of nutritious, warming comfort that is large in supply and ready at a moment’s notice. My days of being motivated to cook a new meal each night are over, most likely for a few months, and Thomas’ book came along at just the right time.  Her chapter on cold weather creations is dog-eared in several places, but I finally settled on a particularly persuasive recipe for barley and root vegetable soup. After lugging several pounds of rutabaga, turnips, fennel and carrots home from the store I tried to make quick work of the roasting process while my son slept in the other room.

Her simple blend of olive oil, thyme, sage and sherry works magic on the vegetables as they slowly caramelize in the oven. These flavors form the base for an otherwise simple compilation of light vegetable broth and cooked barley. In fact what I appreciate is that it is not a thick, sweet and cloying puree of root vegetable that is so often the case. Instead it has the toothsome quality of chewy barley and chunky vegetables along with an understated, herb infused broth. A few teaspoons of sherry vinegar at the end brighten the flavor with a flash of acidity and a simple garnish of fruity olive oil works wonders to deepen the herbal note.

With four containers of soup stacked tall in the fridge, plus an extra reserve of roasted root vegetables for my son’s dinner in waiting, I have the peace of mind that the next few days are primed for happy eating and a proper lie down.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

courtesy of Love Soup by Anna Thomas


Note: The quantity of root vegetables here yields double the amount needed for the soup. Ms. Thomas feels that if you go to trouble to peel and dice all the vegetables, you might as well take an extra ten minutes so that you have extra on hand to throw into a salad or risotto. This came in handy for me because they are the perfect texture and flavor for my toddler to eat, and something I may not otherwise go to the trouble to make. But if you don’t have a use for the extras, feel free to cut the vegetable quantities in half.

(For the root vegetables)

1 lb rutabagas

1 lb turnips

1 lb sweet yams

1 lb fennel

12 oz carrots

2 lbs onions

4 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves

3 Tbsp dry sherry

(For the soup)

1/2 C pearl barley

1/2-1 tsp salt

5-7 C vegetable broth

4 C roasted root vegetables

1/2 C parsley

2-3 tsp sherry vinegar

optional garnish: fruity green olive or fresh goat cheese

Method: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Peel and dice all the vegetables into 1 inch pieces. Mix them with the olive oil, salt, pepper to taste, thyme, sage and sherry. Spread the vegetables over two shallow baking pans and roast them for an hour, mixing and turning them halfway through the cooking time. Cook the barley in a large pot with 1.5 C water, a dash of salt and 5 cups of vegetable broth for about a half hour. Add the roasted vegetables and more salt and pepper if necessary. Finally, add the sherry vinegar and parsley just before serving. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

2 Responses to “Labor of Love”

  1. Jessica says:

    It took me a bit to get around to this one!! I have been thinking about it since your post though and hauled half the produce aisle back to the house at the end of last week! The cashier hadn’t heard of half of the root vegetables so it took us some time getting to the car!! LOL Honestly, I have never used a rudabaga before so this is a new one for me too! I have everything chopped and in the oven… not sure about my portions… I think I may have more of one and less of others but the sherry aroma is filling up my kitchen and I am anxious to see the end result! I peeled the eggplant- probably shouldn’t have done that… and I only used the stalk parts of the fennel… I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with that flavor as I don’t cook with it much… I am easing into new things :) Are you supposed to use the entire fennel or just the ends for future reference?? I didn’t have sage so I added a little basil instead- I hope it doesn’t ruin it but I didn’t know what else to sub in! The rudabaga was covered in a waxy coating so I peeled that off before cutting it up. Why do they do that?? Does it preserve the life or something? Everything smells great!! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  2. Dewey says:

    Looks great Molly, this will be on our menu for this week.

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