It’s freezing.

I realize that’s a relative term, considering I’m in California and California cold is in no way comparable to, say, New York cold (which I don’t miss at all – I’m looking at you frostbitten toes and $400 heating bills). But nevertheless, San Francisco temps can definitely dip down onto the less attractive side of 55F and when this unfortunate event occurs, all mama wants is soup.

Such is my current situation. I want soup! And not just any soup… A hearty, soul-warming, brothy soup with earthy flavors and heavenly aromatics. Thanks to Ms. Smitten Kitchen (genius strikes yet again), I found just the soup in the following recipe! A delightfully simple concoction with surprisingly complex flavors… a mushroom barley soup to end all mushroom barley soups…

Started out by rehydrating a few dried porcinis (just threw them in a bowl and covered with about 1 cup of boiling water). Set those bad boys aside I tended to the rest. Heated up a bit of olive oil in my LeCreuset and sautéed a roughly chopped carrot and a roughly chopped onion for about 10 minutes over medium heat.

Then I added crushed garlic and briefly sautéed (about 30 seconds or so). I’ve found that chopping garlic is annoying and time-consuming, so now I usually just smash my cloves with the flat edge of a chef’s knife and call it a day. Screw chopping garlic.

Added sliced brown mushrooms and sautéed those for about 8 minutes, until they started to release liquid.

Turned up the heat and added the barley (or farro)…

Sautéed until the barley got a lil’ color.

Stirred in beef broth, dry sherry and tomato paste…

Drained the re-hydrated porcinis (reserving the liquid). Chopped up the shrooms (rather indiscriminately)…

Added the chopped porcinis, strained the porcini soaking liquid through a metal sieve (to remove any grit) and added that to the pot as well! Threw in a little seasoning (salt, pepper, love) and let it simmer for about an hour.

It smelled amazing, but even after the simmertime, it wasn’t quite as flavorful as I was hoping. Until the magic step… A good shot of sherry vinegar right before serving really did wonders! I was so surprised, but seriously, this was magic vinegar.

Dished it up. Slipped into blissful soup coma. F you, coldness. Score one for soup.


Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/3 cup dried mushrooms like porcini
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms (white, cremini, shiitake or a mixture thereof; I used 100% brown/creminis)
1/2 cup farro, pearled barley, or spelt, rinsed
6 cups low sodium or salt-free beef broth or stock (vegetable, mushroom or chicken stock can be swapped)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar