This soup is so hearty and delicious, it's great to make in the fall or winter and heat up all week. The texture of barley or farro in soups is glossy and excellent. The small pieces of chopped hamhock give flavor and and wonderful texture to each bite. I love to eat it for breakfast - I heat a small portion in a pot over the stove and crack an egg into it to poach. Mmmm —raychalz
dry beans (I use a medley of pink beans, Lima, and habichuela, but any 2-3 medium-large sized bean mix you like will do)
oil (vegtable, olive, or whatever you like)
large carrot, or 2 small, diced small
celery stalks, diced small
canned italiam plum tomatoes, roughly diced
pearl barley or farro, dry and uncooked
frozen spinach, rinsed and drained (could also use fresh and chop it up, but frozen is so easy)
Soak the beans for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
Heat the oil on medium-high heat in a dutch oven or big pot. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the barley/farro, stir to coat with oil, and saute a few more minutes until vegetables are limp and barley is toasted.
Add the whole hamhock, the tomatoes with some juice from the can, the bay leaves, peppercorns, and the soaked beans. Add enough water to fill the pot up to the height of the hamhock -- you can leave an inch sticking out if that's how things work out. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat and cover to keep a light simmer going. Add water when the level decreases.
After 2 hours simmering, remove the hamhock and let cool for about 10 minutes or until it's easy to handle. Meanwhile, keep the pot at a light simmer. Slice meat from the hamhock, leaving the fat on (this is the most delicious part). Slice into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick, then slice the other direction to end up with 1/4 thick matchsticks of ham, fat on. Toss the meat and bone back in the soup, cook until beans are tender or even soft.
When the beans are at their desired texture, add the spinach and simmer a few minutes more. Add salt to taste. Serve with smoked paprika and freshly ground black pepper.