June 16, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup With Fresh Herbs

by IsaChandra

Serves 6 to 8
Time: 40 minutes || Active time: 15 minutes

Mushroom Barley Soup doesn’t have to be that staunch bowlful of murky stuff that your stepfather eats out of a can all winter. In fact, it can be downright right spring-like, with bright flavors from fresh herbs and springtime’s bounty of veggies.

I feel so lucky to be able to make soups like this happen with the herbs grown right in my yard. When people ask me how I could leave NYC, this is pretty much my answer (no not the hipster iPhone photos, but the subject matter!):

Sure, I could have found some way to garden in Brooklyn, but I lived there for most of my life and never managed to. I feel like if something leads me back home someday, I’ll be well equipped to put together some sort of garden, but growing up in the city it always felt like a dream that was way out of reach — something a much more put-together, much more resourceful or much richer person did.

Now that I’ve lived both in Oregon and Nebraska, I get it. The space helps for sure, but the pace helps, too. And I’ve come to find that there’s hardly anything more satisfying than grabbing a handful of thyme right off the porch, or gently pulling off a few crisp leaves of basil. The little things; tucking tomato plant branches safely into their cages, then smelling their grassy perfume all over your hands, eating a strawberry still warm from the sun, and even the failures! Watching your sunflowers go from seven to four and discovering the bunny who did it is still a pretty cool feeling.

And so this afternoon, when I got a yen for some mushroom barley soup (even though it’s June), I was able to use my garden instead of my spice rack. I am definitely a year-round soup girl, and can be found simmering some on even the hottest days of the year because sometimes gazpacho just won’t do.

If you don’t happen to have all of the herbs growing right outside, you can just use a mix of whatever you do have on hand. And if you had to choose just one herb, I’d probably make it dill. You can also bulk it up with beans – chickpeas or black-eyed peas are good contenders – or even some sauteed cubed tofu or tempeh. Tender greens, like spinach or watercress, would also make nice additions if you haven’t filled your greens quota for the day.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced (a regular yellow onion is fine, too!)
8 oz cremini mushroom, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 average sized zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick half moons
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 average sized tomato, diced
3/4 cups uncooked pearled (quick cooking) barley
6 cups vegetable broth
Fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Herb mix:
3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme

Preheat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and zucchini, and cook until slightly softened and some of the moisture has been released, about 5 more minutes. Mix in the garlic and saute for a minute or so.

Add celery, tomato, barley, broth, pepper and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, add herbs, cover again and cook until barley is tender, about 10 minutes. Salt and season to taste. For best results, let it sit for at least 10 minutes uncovered so that the flavors can marry. Serve garnished with extra herbs.

  • June 16, 2011 at 10:38 pm: Harmony

    Sounds super yummy! I’m a year-round soup kind of gal myself. :)

  • June 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm: Nikki

    Fresh herbs make everything better. My go-to is rosemary. Yum.

  • June 17, 2011 at 12:36 am: jillian

    I so identify with this (both the soup and the herbs)! I am going back to apartment living and going to miss my garden so much.

  • June 17, 2011 at 1:15 am: April

    I just discovered your blog and love it! Thanks for the great vegan recipes!

  • June 17, 2011 at 2:38 am: Marisa

    Isa, seriously, thanks so much for this. I always wanted to start my own l’il garden when living in Atlanta, but was always too lazy to. And now that I have a house and as much green space as I can handle, nothing beats plucking your own herbs and harvesting your own veggies. YAY.

  • June 17, 2011 at 4:27 am: Dianne

    Hey, being able to have a garden is why I MOVED to Brooklyn! ;-)

  • June 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm: Georgia

    Nummers! I loooove mushroom barley soup anytime. And I have just started working with fresh herbs, so this is timely for me :)

  • June 18, 2011 at 11:16 am: Connie Fletcher

    Isa, I get it. I moved the NY to Vermont, and I haven’t seen the rabbit yet, but I know he’s there along with an assortment of other 4 legged lovelys that really enjoy raiding my bird feeders..and I enjoy watching them. My garden keeps getting bigger. LOVE this recipe. It may be June, but it’s always the right weather for a good soup……..thanks.

  • June 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm: Jojo

    This looks like my kinda soup, yum!

  • June 20, 2011 at 2:31 am: Nebulae

    Do you think Bulgur would work in this recipe in place of the barley? Or would it be totally awful?

  • June 20, 2011 at 3:26 am: Kierstan

    This looks like a fantastic soup – even if it is a balmy 80 degrees here in SE Iowa!

  • June 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm: VeganLinda

    So glad you are giving the Midwest a good name. People ask why we live in a college town in Illinois and don’t move to Portland or back to DC and some days I ask myself the same thing. The pace here is way too easy and hard for me to give up. I don’t mind being the lone or one of the few vegan families in town because I can grow my own food and have time to hang out on our porch. Love your garden!

  • June 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm: William

    Same reason I moved to Omaha when I could have stayed in Southern California or moved back to Portland. I have to say your Basil looks more advanced than mine does right now. My dill and cilantro are coming on like champs though!

    If only I can figure out what is taking a toll on my onions this week. I think it is just the wind, but am not positive. My potatoes are doing great though along with the tomatoes and various peppers!

  • June 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm: Sara (The Veggie Eco-Life)

    I’m not a big mushroom fan (I know, sad thing for a vegetarian huh), but I can relate so much to what you say about gardening :) Growing your own veggies and herbs is like a little bit of heaven!

  • June 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm: Moxie

    wow, that looks really good. Might just make this for lunch tomorrow :)

  • June 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm: Nicole (lacocineraconprisa)

    This looks amazing! Now I have a great recipe for my cooking-tuesday this week! Greetings from Mexico City, gracias!

  • June 28, 2011 at 8:03 pm: Sam (Quantum Vegan)

    Wow, I read this and suddenly NEEDED to make this soup. It just might happen this week…

  • June 30, 2011 at 2:08 am: Rachel

    Just made this- amazing!!! Didn’t have fresh thyme but threw some parsley in. Very flavorful! I added white beans and had to let it simmer for about 25 mins to cook the barley all the way. Excellent recipe- boyfriend approved and def a keeper! Thanks !!!

  • June 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm: Christine

    I made this for lunch yesterday and it is delicious! My (non-veg) mom loved it too. Definitely a keeper! Thank you!

  • July 20, 2011 at 5:20 pm: Mama Delicious

    Start a meal with soup. That is amazing to me.

  • July 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm: Molly

    SOOOOO good!!! Added a little chard, all the herbs in the recipe (I’m growing them all!!), and also some pineapple sage because I had it. My carnivore husband asked me to make this again.

  • October 2, 2011 at 8:23 pm: Mary

    Community garden in Omaha say whaaaa? Tell me more!!

  • October 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm: Heather

    what kind of veg broth do you use?? …. I dislike most and deperately need to find a new kind!

  • October 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm: Jacki

    This is so good!! Thanks! if you use nonstick cooking spray, it’s only 2pts, Weight Watcher’s PointPlus per serving (recipe divided by 8) Perfect for my weekly batch of soup. Thanks again!

  • January 2, 2012 at 12:00 am: Stacey

    So yummy. Love the herbs!!!

  • January 11, 2012 at 2:58 am: Emily b.

    This was great to feed a crowd. We added Swiss chard and substituted protabellos and shiitakes.

  • January 16, 2012 at 2:33 am: Deena

    Can I substitute quinoa for the barley? If so, would I put it in at the same time as the barley?

    • January 16, 2012 at 3:30 am: IsaChandra

      Yes, you can! But quinoa will only take 20 minutes to cook.

  • May 1, 2012 at 3:05 am: Sarah

    Great Recepie! I modified a little due to what was in my fridge but sooo yummy! thanks!


  • February 22, 2013 at 1:52 am: Tim Albers

    Hi , I’m writing to you from very cold and snowy Omaha! I have an event in 3 weeks, where I have decided to sample a soup, for about 100 people. The focus of the soup has to be fresh herbs. Can you think of a great tasting soup that would appeal to 100 or so. I plan to make
    3 gallons, sampling in 3oz cups.
    Thanks for your time. Tim Albers.

  • October 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm: Kathleen

    This will be on this weekend’s camping trip fer sher. Need something to satisfy my instead of chewing my nails waiting for the book to arrive!!!!

  • September 9, 2014 at 2:22 am: Coe

    Delicious–I could taste every vegetable in this soup and the flavors harmonized beautifully. This satisfying soup is hearty, complex, and tastes like summer. I think it also cured my hangover. Thanks Isa!

  • September 18, 2014 at 8:46 pm: Lauren

    Sounds delish! Can it be frozen so I can make it ahead?