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Mixed Mushroom Soup with Pearl Barley

November 24, 2010

It’s cold here in San Francisco. I would say freezing. But 50 degrees doesn’t exactly qualify as freezing—although it sure does feel that way—so I’ll stick with cold. Very cold. And the driving rain certainly doesn’t help matters. It looks like our Indian summer is finally over. Fall has officially arrived, just in time for Thanksgiving. Now I love fall, but frigid rain? Not so much.

Oh, and I’m not the only one displeased with the weather, because rain = way too much indoor time.

Days like this make me want to curl up on the couch with a movie and some comfort food. But work? Still way too busy for a big production in the kitchen. This mushroom soup saved the day. Warm. Rich. Hearty. And healthy too (if you can restrain yourself from putting in too much sesame oil). What could make it better? Oh, the fact that it comes together in about 30 minutes. Perfect.

Looks like this recipe’s going to become a regular in this kitchen.


Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Serves 2-3 as a main

Olive oil
Fine grain sea salt & freshly ground peper
1 lb. assorted fresh mushrooms (I used oyster, shiitake, and cremini)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or mild vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups cooked pearl barley*
2-3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari (or regular soy sauce), to taste
2-3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, to taste
Chopped chives, for garnish

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a damp cloth (don’t wash them – this will only make them tough). Chop the mushrooms into small, bite-sized pieces (see picture).

In a large soup pot, heat a couple splashes of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, and season with a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid, about five minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook together until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms are browned and have released all their liquid. Remove the mushrooms from the pot, and set aside on a plate.

In the same pot, heat a couple more splashes of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and sauté until tender and cooked through, about five minutes.  Add the cooked barley, two tablespoons of the tamari, and the broth.  Bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms back to the pot, and simmer over medium-low heat for another two or three minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the sesame oil, and taste for seasoning. At this point, you might want to add another tablespoon of tamari or a little more sesame oil (I did).

Serve sprinkled with chopped chives and a very light drizzle of sesame oil.

*  To cook the pearled barley: combine 1/2 cup of pearled barley, a couple pinches of salt, and 1 cup water in a pot. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes (until tender and the water is absorbed).

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