Barley and Mushroom Soup

After a five-day trip to Southern California – to visit the younger son and his sweet friend, and watch our niece do a splendid job with her team in the San Diego Crew Classic (a victory rewarding a snowy Maine winter of hard work inside the gym) – we landed back in Seattle. The straw sun hat poking out from my carry-on looked ridiculous.

My husband, after I shivered my way down the jet way complaining about the first breath of frigid and damp air, said: “Well look – there’s a flight to Fairbanks about to depart.” Weather misery is relative. (Luckily I had my down vest tucked in the straw hat!)

We drove into Seattle watching skyscrapers merge with gray clouds, braved the blast of marine air as we got out of the car on the ferry, and stopped at a favorite bakery on Bainbridge for a bowl of mushroom and barley soup. It tasted so good – hot, flavorful – a warmth to welcome us back to the Northwest.

Inspired, I bought hulled barley and mushrooms at the grocery on the way home. But later, reading recipes, both Bittman and Deborah call for pearled barley. Internet research led me to the “Vegan Coach” who describes hulled barley as more nutritious than pearl – also chewier and longer cooking. She recommends soaking it overnight or at least for a few hours. So I soaked a cup in three cups of water, and then made Deborah’s recipe for “Barley Soup with Caramelized Onions and Pecorino Cheese.”

While two chopped onions slow cooked for 40 minutes in a quarter cup of olive oil, I made stock by sautéing roughly chopped onion, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, and bay leaves. Then added salt and eight cups of water (including the barley soak water.) The recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms, tossed in the stock to soften and add flavor (fished out at the end and chopped for the soup).

After the long cooking, remove the lid over the onions and brown. Add two tablespoons tomato paste and one of chopped rosemary (fetching the rosemary I glanced at the garden – many rain-battered daffodils).

Add the soaked barley, chopped carrots and celery, chopped porcini mushrooms, and sliced fresh mushrooms (not in the recipe but I’d bought them). Include the strained stock and simmer half hour or so till vegetables tender.

Virtuous. Warming. Filling. Those words come to mind about the soup – substantial. (The next day the young writer and I both ate it gladly – but with forks.)

Good to have on hand in a cold spring!

2 thoughts on “Barley and Mushroom Soup

  1. Bleary-eyed this morning, I read your Internet advisor as “Vegan Couch,” and pictured a sort of couch potato — or couch barley — and also thought, oh-my-gosh, how did I miss this the first time? Then read it again and realized it was coach. I need new glasses.

  2. Warm soup sounds good today. Maybe it’s the comfort that soup brings that I need! Amazing that you have daffodils willing to brave the weather…..not so in Alaska. Weather misery is truly relative. Can’t wait for spring to warm up the ground.

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