A Vibrant Vegetarian Soup That’s Barely Any Work

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Lacking the Italian suavity of farro or the good-for-you cred of quinoa, barley might seem a little frumpy. Thank goodness for Hetty Lui McKinnon, who reminds us that barley’s velvety, nubby texture and gentle flavor pair wonderfully with a wide range of ingredients beyond the usual mushrooms and beef. In her new recipe for lemony pearl barley soup, she brings out barley’s lighter, brighter side with a broth that’s enlivened with citrus and loads of feathery dill. A dollop of yogurt (dairy or coconut) and some fresh spinach add creaminess and just enough vegetable matter to make this a meal. It’s the perfect dish to have bubbling on the stove as winter softens into spring.

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Lemony Pearl Barley Soup

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If you’re in the market for something substantial and meatless but are too hungry to wait for a pot of barley to cook, consider Kay Chun’s tofu and mushroom jorim. Based on a Korean braised beef dish, Kay’s version stars tofu and mushrooms simmered in a pungent mix of garlic, ginger and soy. A little kimchi on the side adds just the right spicy contrast.

Kay is a master of coaxing complex flavors from just a few ingredients. Case in point: Her pork and ricotta meatballs call for just five ingredients (not counting the salt and pepper), yet somehow they meld into a stunning dish that’s savory and delicate, with an airy texture from the ricotta. You can serve the meatballs by themselves, maybe with some lemon wedges and crusty bread on the side, or simmer them in a pan of marinara sauce and spoon them over spaghetti. Feel free to substitute turkey or chicken for the pork.

It would be remiss to speak about minimalist cooking without mentioning Mark Bittman, who wrote the Minimalist recipe column for The New York Times’s Food section for more than 13 years. Easy chicken and rice is one of his most beloved recipes, and for good reason. He pares this classic one-pot dish down to its essentials: olive oil, onions, chicken and rice, with some chopped cilantro or parsley for color and freshness. You can perk it up with a pinch of saffron or other spices, olives or capers, tomatoes or roasted peppers, or leave it simply and deliciously as it is. Dinner doesn’t get more comforting than this.

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