Once you’ve prepped the vegetables, this soup cooks fast yet tastes as though it has been cooking for hours. It tastes even better the next day. This soup is thick, more like a stew,... so add more liquid if you prefer a thinner soup — it’s up to you. Try cooking your own beans for the soup. The cooked-bean broth will add extra flavor.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot on medium-high heat. Add garlic. Saute until it turns to a light gold.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, sage, thyme, and bay leaf. Saute for a minute. Cover and turn the heat to medium-low. Sweat the vegetables for about 10 minutes, until they soften. Stir from time to time. Do not let them stick and burn!
Add the pearl barley and cabbage. Mix well with the other vegetables. Cover again and sweat for another 3-5 minutes, or until the cabbage begins to soften. Add the parsley and cook for another minute or so. Add the stock and Parmesan rind and bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Cover, turn the temperature to low, and simmer gently for 25 minutes, or until the barley is nearly cooked.
Add the beans. If home-cooked, add their liquid, too. Bring back to a simmer. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Dice the Parmesan rind and return it to the pot. Adjust seasoning and grind a little black pepper on top. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil.
When using canned beans always rinse them before use, even for soups. The liquid they sit in tends to be loaded with sodium, even the low-sodium brands. When you do use drained canned beans in this soup, add an extra 2 cups of liquid.
If you are having oral problems such as cankers or post-radiation dryness, this delicious soup can be pureed for easier swallowing by whizzing a couple of cupfuls in a blender with a little extra water or stock. Let the soup cool somewhat before eating.