Years ago, I used to enter cooking contests that required participants to use their own original recipes. These contests were usually sponsored by a specific manufacturer and the recipe had to use a certain minimum amount of their product. In this case, it was a beef bouillon brand. The contest was held during the summer, so I took advantage of the season and developed a beef barley soup with zucchini and fresh tomatoes as well as the more traditional root vegetables that usually appear in a beef soup. It's funny how effectively those two simple vegetables can turn a winter classic into a summer soup.
This recipe is extremely flexible, so when it's wintertime and there are no tomatoes or zucchini in the garden, I leave them out. Either way, it's delicious.
Beef Barley Soup
6 cups beef broth 3 large carrots, cut in 1/2" slices
1.5 lbs beef chuck, cut in 3/4" cubes 2 large potatoes, cut in 3/4" chunks
1 tsp. oil 5 celery stalks, cut in 1/2" slices
1/2 c. pearl barley 2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/2" slices
1/4 c. tomato paste 2 large tomatoes, cut into 3/4" chunks
1 onion, chopped salt and pepper to taste
Bring the beef broth to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. In a medium pan, heat the oil, then add the beef cubes and brown on all sides. Pour the contents of the pan into the beef broth. Add the barley, tomato paste, and onion. Cook, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes.
Add the celery, potatoes, and carrots to the pot. Cook, covered for 60 minutes.
Add the zucchini and tomatoes to the pot and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.