To all the haters who say that vegetarian food can’t be hearty and filling, I say this: “NOT TRUE!” My Mushroom Barley Soup sticks to your ribs and warms your soul in the most comforting way. Fall flavors are the name of the game here: this soup is earthy, rustic, savory, and satisfying. It’s also super nutritious, thanks to vitamin and antioxidant loaded mushrooms! When I’m feeling my immune system start to take a dip, I try to sneak as many mushrooms into my diet as possible. The selenium and vitamin D found in ‘shrooms support immunity and help our bodies fight off infection. They are also gut friendly and promote healthy digestion. Mushrooms are magical indeed! While this soup won’t have you trippin’ out Woodstock style, it will induce a very pleasant food high after scraping a few bowls clean.
I use three different types of mushrooms in this recipe: baby bella (or cremini), shiitake, and dried porcini. Even though I only use 1 oz of dried mushrooms, they add a heaping dose of earthy, umami flavor to the soup. To work with them, you simply reconstitute the shrooms in hot water and let them steep until they are soft and plump. Then, you can strain the liquid through a coffee filter for the most incredible mushroom broth to add to the soup! Double whammy! Nutty, chewy barley pairs perfectly with the mushroom medley. Make sure to buy pearled barley (or hulled)- otherwise, you’re gonna be simmering and stirring for a much longer time. Farro makes a delicious substitute! Also- the amount of liquid you use may vary. I started with 8 cups total but also let the soup sit for a while off the heat... it got very thick and I ended up adding more stock, so keep some extra handy (or add water)! The garnishes listed may sound odd, but they work so well. The sour cream gives the soup a little extra creaminess and much needed tang (a squeeze of lemon doesn’t hurt either). The dill/parsley adds a fresh, herby note that beautifully accents the rich soup. If I still haven’t convinced you, a drizzle of EVOO and a sprinkle of parm would also be delectable! Crusty bread for dunking is a must.
prep time: 15 min. cook time: 60 min. serves: 6-8
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced leeks, white and green parts only (2 large or 4 small)
2 large carrots, small diced
2 large celery stalks, small diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 oz dried mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles or morels)
2 cups stemmed and sliced baby bella (cremini) mushrooms
2 cups stemmed and sliced shiitake mushrooms, or chopped maitakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup pearled barley (sub pearled farro)
1/2 cup dry white wine
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups reserved mushroom stock (from rehydrating the dried mushrooms)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill or Italian parsley, oplus extra for garnish
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cups of stemmed and chopped kale or spinach
Creme fraiche or sour cream, chopped dill or parlsey and crusty bread
Place the dried mushrooms in a medium glass bowl. Pour two cups of very hot water over the top to submerge. Let them steep 15 minutes to rehydrate. Remove the mushrooms from the water to a chopping board with a slotted spoon and chop them up- reserve the liquid in the bowl! Pour the remaining mushroom “stock” through a coffee filter or very fine mesh sieve into a 2 cup measuring cup or another bowl to strain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven or heavy stock pot. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, and 1 tsp salt and sweat the veggies until they are soft and have reduced by about half, 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and thyme leaves and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Next, add the fresh and rehydrated dried mushrooms to the vegetables in the pot and give them a big stir. Let them cook another 7-10 minutes, until they are beginning to brown and soften. Season with a pinch of salt.
Stir in the tomato paste and barley and cook 2 minutes more, stirring often. Pour in the wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot and scrape any brown bits up with a wooden spoon. Let the wine reduce, then add 6 cups of vegetable stock, the reserved 2 cups of mushroom liquid, 1-1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Give the pot a stir, bring the mixture up to boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer the soup about 50 minutes, until the barley is tender (you may need to add more liquid as it cooks if the soup is getting too thick). Uncover the soup and stir in the Worcestershire sauce, dill or parsley and kale. Cook to wilt the kale for about 5-10 minutes more. Check for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls garnished with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche plus some dill or parsley sprinkled on top. Grab some bread and wine and enjoy!