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Monday, December 29, 2008

Mushroom Barley Soup

I worked at a restaurant when I was in grad school in Ann Arbor. I wasn't eating much while lived there - I think it was a combination of chronic nausea caused by my awful Biostatistics class, not having time to make anything, and not having any money to buy something that someone else made. I'd speed walk the 2 miles home from school in the afternoon, put on my black outfit, and then backtrack a mile to the restaurant. Sometimes I'd jam a piece of bread down my throat while waiting downstairs in the dungeon for my first table. But once and while, when the mushroom barley soup was on the menu, I'd sneak a cup. Whether it was my long-term hunger or the soup goodness, I don't know. But I loved it and I needed to recreate it. I think I came close. Thank you to the West African chefs Dady and Mory for making this yummy soup and for making me feel like I was back in Senegal everytime I went in the kitchen.

1 medium onion - diced
1 large carrot - diced
2 stalks of celery - diced
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1 10oz package of baby bella mushrooms - cut in quarters
*a handful of dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups of hot water for 20 min. When soft, remove stems and chop into very small pieces. Save the water.
1 cup white wine (something dry - chardonnay works well)
1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
3-4 tbsp flour
2 32oz cartons of beef broth
1 cup dried barley
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp basil
salt & pepper

*you don't need the dried shitakes but if you can get them, they're worth it!!)

Also - this recipe makes about 6 servings (maybe more). I usually make the whole thing and freeze half. It freezes and heats up well on the stovetop with a little extra broth.


1. Heat enough olive oil on medium high to cover the bottom of a large pot (the largest you've got!).

2. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Stir frequently and saute until soft.

3. Add chopped mushrooms, oregano, basil, and lots of salt and pepper.

4. Once all vegetables are tender, add the white wine, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Reduce almost completely.

5. Add flour and stir frequently (enough to form a light paste with the vegetables).

6. Add the canned tomatoes, the beef broth, and the water that the dried shitakes soaked in, if you used them. Stir well so that all of the flour is incorporated.

7. Add the barley and bring soup to a boil. Once it boils, return to low/medium low, cover and let it simmer for about an hour. Stir occasionally.

I like this soup thick, not too brothy. Start with this proportion and if you want it thinner, you can always add more broth after...you'll want to give the barley a good hour to do its thing. You also might have to add some more salt and pepper.

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