A few notes: I used homemade chicken stock to make this soup, but you could also use good-tasting store-bought chicken or vegetable stock. To me, the best brand is Better Than Bouillon. And if your celery comes with leaves still attached, save them: toss in a small handful when you add the cabbage, toward the end. Oh, and instead of parsnips, try peeled, cubed rutabaga.
Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or small stockpot. Add the onion, celery, parsnips, carrots, and leeks, and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until softened. Do not allow to brown. Add the garlic and thyme leaves, and cook for a few minutes more. Then add the stock and a couple of good pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Then stir in the pearl barley, and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Savoy cabbage or Brussels sprouts, and simmer for 5 minutes more. Taste, and add salt as needed. Serve hot, with freshly ground black pepper, if you like.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings