Cucumber and Yogurt Soup With Barley

1 cup pearl barley
Salt, as needed
1 pound small cucumbers
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 to 3 tablespoons finely diced, seeded jalapeno
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided
4 cups yogurt
1 to 1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup shelled walnuts pieces, chopped
Paprika, for garnish

Toast the barley in a dry, 1-quart saucepan over medium heat until it smells browned. Remove pan from heat to avoid spattering and add 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer until tender, for about 35 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature.

If the cucumbers have been waxed, peel them. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape center with a spoon to remove seeds. Grate cucumber into a large bowl and add the garlic, jalapeno, red onion, 2 teaspoons of the mint and 2 tablespoons of the dill. Add the yogurt and cooked barley, season aggressively with salt and chill for a couple of hours.

To serve, add just enough of the milk to thin soup to consistency of heavy cream (cucumber will release some liquid, and barley will absorb some, so amount may vary). Add more salt to taste. Divide soup among 6 chilled soup bowls. Top with remaining mint and dill, a sprinkling of the chopped walnuts and a dash of paprika.

Makes 6 servings.


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