If you had told 12-year-old grilled cheese making, canned mushroom soup opening Michelle, that one day she’d be making a vegetable barley soup from scratch, she would’ve assumed some sort of coercion, or shock therapy had taken place. My child/teen taste buds always defaulted to a Ranch, cream or cheese-based meal.


Tomato sauce pasta was always covered in that distinctive, microwave-melted, radioactive orange blanket of cheddar. My romaine lettuce wilted under the heavy weight of a Caesar tidal wave, buried beneath a half cup of Kraft "Parmesan." I'd never order (of my own free will) a clear broth soup and or a tomato-based minestrone. Creamy potato leek, broccoli-cheddar and thick condensed mushroom soup were where my heart belonged. 

My old self couldn't help but cringe when HusB requested vegetable barley soup this weekend. I refused to produce that bland, alien-skin-greige liquid from my kitchen. So I took matters into my own hands and cackled, as I added golden turmeric and a spicy bird's eye chili. I admit, it was damn delicious.


1/2 C diced onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 C carrots, chopped

2 C celery, chopped

1/2 C dry white wine (Chardonnay ideally)

1 C zucchini, chopped

1 C red yams, diced (sweet potato would be totally fine here!)

3-4 C vegetable stock

3/4 C uncooked Barley

1 bird’s eye Thai chili, minced

1 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp of sugar

2 Bay leaves, salt, pepper,

2 tbsp dried oregano

1/2 C chopped parsley

1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme

1/4 C sweet tomato caramelized jam (sub with 1/4 C canned diced tomatoes, with 1 tbsp of sugar & a splash of good balsamic vinegar)

1. Sauté onion, carrot, celery with oil in big heavy pot, or in the Instant Pot until soft & fragrant.

2. Add garlic, dried spices, bird’s eye chili, and Bay leaves and let them cook for a couple minutes.

3. Once brown bits form, add wine & deglaze.

4. Add zucchini and potato & uncooked Barley. Stir & let ingredients warm through.

5. Add veg stock, turmeric, sweet tomato jam & fresh thyme.

6. Bring to a low simmer for at least an hour, or if you’re using an Instant Pot, pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.

7.Once almost done stir in fresh parsley, 1 tbsp of sugar and season to taste! Freshly ground pepper works wonders here!


© 2017 Michelle Li / miliSashimi