This is a classic pantry soup, made largely with stuff you probably have sitting around already and little that is fresh. That said, if you do have fresh (or frozen, or canned) veggies on hand, feel free to throw in whatever you like. The part I really liked about this was getting out jars of herbs from the garden that I dried last summer and crumbling them fresh into the soup. My hands smelled like summer when I was done. This makes a big batch, perfect for freezing.
You can use a packaged soup mix of beans here if you like, or mix and match from your pantry (back beans, red beans, navy beans, pinto beans, lentils...it's all good). I included some absolutely lovely, creamy local beans from Crabapple Farm - the variety was called Marfax.
3-4 cups mixed dried beans and barley
1 medium onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Parmesan rinds (optional)
1/4 cup dried parsley
1-2 Tbsp dried oregano
1-2 Tbsp dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Good quality olive oil for topping (optional)
Place the bean and barley mix in the slow cooker and add enough vegetable stock to cover by 2 inches (be more generous if you won't be able to check on the soup during the day). Add the onion, garlic, Parmesan rinds (if using), and the herbs.
Cook on high for 7-9 hours (longer is ok), until the beans are all completely tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot. If desired, drizzle with olive oil at the table.
Serves about 8.