Barley and Mushroom Soup

Je suis désolée!  I am inconsolable.  Not because of this soup – which is hearty and warm and meaty (without any meat).  No — I’m upset for the loss of one of my prized blogging backgrounds.  My carrara marble board.  Not only am I upset for its demise, but for the resulting green and purple toe which tried to break it’s fall and nearly broke my foot.
Within three minutes of the 30-pound marble board landing on my foot — and after a series of colorful and un-printable phrases, my toe was  purple and swollen (witness my instagram).  A doctor visit and a few x-rays later,  I limped home.  Nothing fractured — except my marble.
Of course, my harrowing experience has nothing to do with this hearty mushroom soup — except that my beautiful marble appears in a few of the pictures.  (Sigh).
Back to cooking.  I originally intended for this to be a cream-of-mushroom soup with a hit of sherry and some cr?me fra?che for good measure.  But my moods change often and by the second or third step, I was scrounging in the refrigerator and pantry for more substantive ingredients.
 “Ancient grains” have been the rage for a while (quinoa this and spelled that).   I don’t know if you can count barley as an ancient grain, but if going back to the 1970s is ancient, than barley definitely qualifies.  Myne (my grandmother on my Dad’s side) would always add it to her soups and stews.  It’s got a hearty chew and reminds me of her cooking, so there’s always a box of barley in the house — and that’s how it ended up in this soup.
And then there’s the kale.  I know.  My mother keeps telling me, “enough with the kale”.  I hear you, but I’m not listening.  I use it  —  not only for the health benefits – of which there are many, but frankly, I like that it’s got staying power.  It doesn’t wilt away in a hot broth – like spinach.  It’s just as good, chewy and hearty the next day.  Skip it if you like, but you’re missing out!
Barley and Mushroom SoupWith the holidays looming (aka –  the month of indulgence), I think its utterly appropriate to mix in a healthy vegetarian meal for balance.  For us, this is it!  Try it with these easy corn muffins, soda bread, or a slice of pumpkin bread!


  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
  • 6 cups vegetable broth or stock
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes
  • 1 15.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups chopped kale, tough stems removed
  • 1-2 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a dutch oven heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until mushrooms soften and give off their liquid. Add onions and continue cooking until they take on a translucent quality. Add the bunch of thyme and broth, cover and bring to a boil. Stir in barley, cover and reduce heat to simmer.
  2. While soup is simmering strain the porcini mushrooms from the water - making sure to discard any sand or grit. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add them to the soup along with the can of diced tomatoes in their broth.
  3. When the barley is tender, remove the pot from the stove and fish out the thyme bunch, discard. Add chopped kale and stir until wilted in the soup. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sherry wine vinegar to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.