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The Earthbound Cook
by Myra Goodman

Most delis in New York Serve mushroom barley soup, and I grew up eating it regularly. Barley is chewy, moist, slightly sweet, and it goes with just about anything, but I especially love it paired with mushrooms. The natural starch in this grain acts as a thickener and gives the soup a lovely sheen. Three different varieties of mushrooms add earthy flavor, with the porcinis contributing an intriguing hint of smokiness. Although this recipe specifies the use of hulled barley, it can also be made with the hull- less form, with no sacrifice of nutrients. Barley is a thirsty grain that soaks up whatever cooking liquid it encounters; if you choose to use the pearled (hull-less) form, you will need less stock as it does not absorb as much liquid during cooking or storage. For a vegetarian version of this soup, simply substitute Vegetable Stock for the beef stock.
Serves 8


• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• About 1 cup diced yellow onion (1/4-inch dice)
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced leek (white and light green parts)
• 2 small celery ribs, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
• 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/2 cup)
• 1/4 ounce (about ½ cup) dried porclnl mushrooms (see below)
• 1 cup boiling water
• 4 cups (1 pound) thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
• 2 cups (about 6 ounces) thinly sliced brown (cremini) mushrooms
• 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
• 8 cups Beef Stock or store-bought low-sodium beef broth, or more if needed
• 1 cup hulled barley (also called barley groats)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, 5 to 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes.

3. Add the shiitake mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and thyme to the stockpot. Raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms give off liquid and begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the porcini mushrooms from their soaking liquid and add them to the soup. Pour in the soaking liquid, taking care to leave behind any grit.

THE BASICS - Dried Porcini Mushrooms:
Fresh porcini mushrooms, also called cepes, are one of the world's most delectable wild mushrooms. Characterized by their earthy, woodsy flavor and meaty texture, they are highly prized by chefs. fresh porcini are rarely found outside of specialty shops in major metropolitan areas, but fortunately the mushrooms are widely available in their dried form. Choose dried porcini that are tan to pale brown in color, and look for large pieces, not crumbles.
Dried porcini need to be softened in hot water for about 10 minutes before using. The soaking liquid is extremely flavorful, so make sure you add it to whatever dish you are preparing. Watch for any grit that may have settled at the bottom of the bowl during soaking, and leave it behind.



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