This classic mushroom barley soup is loaded with extra flavor and texture by using both dried and fresh mushrooms and white wine or dry sherry. If you want a porridge-type result, a little less broth delivers a risotto texture, a little less barley or more broth will yield a traditional bowl of brothy soup.
1-2garlic clovesminced (use 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder if you don't have fresh)
2tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
1/2 cupdried porcini mushroomsoptional, if using soak in hot water for 15 minutes to soften and let any dirt fall to the bottom of the bowl **
1/2 poundcremini or white button mushroomssliced
1/2 - 1 teaspoondried thymeyou can also use fresh thyme or dried basil, or even add some hot chili peppers
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/3 cupsherry or white wineto deglaze the pot
4cupschicken stockor use mushroom, vegetable or beef stock. Only have one can of stock? use water as the rest of your liquid and just taste your soup to see if it needs a little extra seasoning.
1cuppearled barleyshould be available at any grocery store, bulk bins, or specialty food store
1 teaspoon kosher saltor to taste
1 teaspoonblack pepperor to taste
Saute the carrots, celery and onion in the olive oil on medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent and just starting to take on some color – about 5 minutes.
At this stage, I like to add in my dry spices and some salt and pepper to start layering flavors and release some of their fragrance in the hot pan. Mix them around a bit and then deglaze the pan with the white wine (in non-technical terms - pour the wine in the hot pan, listen to the sizzle, and mix it around to release any yummy flavors sticking to the bottom of the pan).
Drain the porcini, savingthe liquid**. Dice the porcini if you like and then add porcini and fresh mushrooms to pot and the garlic and sauté until the fresh mushrooms give off their liquid and start to show some color – another 3 - 5 minutes or so.
Now add the stock, mushroom soaking liquid and barley. Stir again and bring the whole thing up to a boil. Then reduce the temperature to low and let it simmer covered until the barley is cooked and the carrots and celery are soft.
If you are adding in any pre-cooked meat, do so at the end just to warm it up.
To serve the soup, ladle into bowls and if you have any fresh herbs around - basil or parley or chives, you could sprinkle some on top, or a splash of olive oil and/or a squeeze of lemon would be nice as well. Or serve it just as is - if you've been tasting it as it cooks and adjusting the seasoning, it should be lovely on its own.
Lift the lid frequently to give it a stir and check to be sure it is not boiling. You'll want it to cook at a low boil - almost simmering. As you taste for seasoning,squeeze in the meyer lemon juice as needed.
**if you want to add the mushroom flavored soaking liquid to the soup, be sure to strain it through some cheesecloth first to remove the sediment/dirt that was released from the mushrooms.
Other add-ins: leftover chicken, beef, even sausage or pancetta sauteed and added in would be nice. Also - other vegetables would be lovely too - parsnip, zucchini - almost anything you want to use from your vegetable bin could become an ingredient in this soup.