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Mushroom Barley Soup With Fresh Herbs

Posted By IsaChandra On June 16, 2011 @ 9:43 pm In Low Fat,Recipe,Recipes Main Featured,Soups,Summer | 41 Comments

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.

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