Vegetable Beef and Mushroom Barley Soup
4 teaspoons olive oil
¾ pound beef stew meat cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1½ cups)
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (about ½ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 2 teaspoons minced garlic in a jar
6 cups low-sodium beef broth
One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices
½ cup pearled barley
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium-high heat.
Dry off the meat with paper towels and then sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Add the meat to the pan and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total.
Transfer to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute.
Scrape the mixture from the skillet into the slow cooker. (If there are any browned bits still remaining in the skillet, add a little of the beef broth to de-glaze the pan and then add to the slow cooker.)
Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, broth, tomatoes, barley, and thyme to the slow cooker and stir to blend.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish each serving with a sprinkling of parsley, if desired.