Mushroom Barley Soup

Each morning I get my son out of bed, say ‘Good morning!’ and lift up his window shade to let the light in and begin our day. The burning bush just outside has turned a brilliant scarlet, seemingly overnight. That, coupled with a few chilly nights, lets me know that fall is upon us–and I am thrilled.

Early fall is perfect: the nuisance insects are gone, the sun is golden, the temperature is just right for jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, and at night you can snuggle under a blanket after eating a bowl of hot soup. Fresh, local vegetables are still plentiful, and many are at their peak (think late-season spinach, beets, winter squash, and tomatoes.)

Soup is my favorite meal. It’s satisfying, nourishing, and typically pretty easy. Here’s one to get you started:

Mushroom Barley Soup

2 T olive oil
2 small onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
8 oz mushrooms, quartered and sliced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 T soy sauce, or more to taste (especially if using water instead of stock)
1 1/2 cups hulled barley
8 cups water or stock

1) Heat olive oil in a 4 qt pot until shimmering. Sauté onions until soft (about 4-5 minutes), and then add garlic, celery, and carrots. Stir and heat until almost soft (about 7-8 minutes.) Add mushrooms, cumin, thyme, salt, pepper, and soy sauce. Cook a few additional minutes, until mushrooms begin to release their liquid.

2) Add barley and water/stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer soup for 45-60 minutes, until barley is soft and chewy. Taste and adjust seasonings while cooking. If you used water, you may want to add another tablespoon or two of soy sauce. Serve hot with cornbread or rolls.

Note: If you can find hulled barley, it is more nutritious than the more prevalent pearled barley, as the outer bran layer has not been polished off. But use what you can find–pearled barley will take less time to cook.