Mushroom Barley Soup

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 45 minutes

Taking an untraditional approach to the classic Eastern European “grandmother” soup (where the ingredients are usually put in a pot with some beef and boiled), this delivers real heartiness and a depth of flavor—without the meat. As discussed, the key ingredient for making the most of many mushroom dishes is dried porcini (unless you can find fresh ones!), so here they figure prominently, along with their soaking liquid. But perhaps most important is the browning step, where the sugars in the carrots promote the caramelization of the fresh mushrooms. This technique elevates their flavor and makes the soup more complex, as does the utterly unorthodox touch of soy sauce.

1 ounce (about 1 cup) dried porcini mushrooms

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh shiitake, cremini, portobello, or button mushrooms, stemmed and roughly chopped

3 medium carrots, sliced

1 cup pearled barley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

3 cups Mushroom Stock or water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

01 Soak the porcini in 3 cups very hot water. Put the olive oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over high heat. When hot, add the fresh mushrooms and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add the barley and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt and plenty of pepper and turn off the heat.

02 When the porcini are soft, strain them through a strainer and reserve the soaking liquid. Sort through and discard hard bits, if any, then coarsely chop the mushrooms.

03 Turn the heat to medium-high, add the porcini to the pot, and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the bay leaf, the mushroom soaking water, and the stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer the soup; cover and cook until the barley is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the soy sauce, then taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.