January 1, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup

Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook and my childhood are inseparable. My mom religiously cooked its vegetarian recipes--in fact I don't remember her ever cooking from any other cookbook. She had some recipe cards, for sure, but as far as I know the Moosewood was the only book.

And you can tell from looking at the copy I inherited it that it has been lovingly used for the past 35 years. The title page contains page numbers of favorite recipes, there are notes in the margins and--the best indication of a cookbook's worth--stained pages from years of use. If those stains are any indication, the soup section of Katzen's book is the best. In my mother's house at least, they were the most often used. I grew up eating lentil soup and Hungarian mushroom soup. I would ask for the white bean and black olive soup as my special birthday meal.

The Moosewood mushroom barley soup is as simple as it is delicious. It is very savory and it lets the flavor of the mushrooms really come through. Barley is an under-utilized grain. It is inexpensive to buy in bulk, it cooks easily like rice, and adds a distinct flavor and depth.

For how delicious this soup is, the recipe is surprisingly easy and not at all labor intensive. It does take around an hour to cook, but most of the time it is simmering and does not require you to slave over it. The ingredient list is shorter than many (less flavorful) soups and therefore prep-time is minimal.

We had this soup on a cold mid-winter night with a glass of red wine (thank you, Libby!) and hunks of crusty La Brea sourdough bread. It was, in Starbucks speak, "a perfect pairing," and one I would highly recommend. I have a feeling my future kids will be as familiar with the Moosewood Cookbook as I was.
Mushroom Barley Soup
  • 1/2 cup raw pearled barley
  • 6 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, vegetable stock (or water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons tamari (a type of soy sauce)
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 heaping cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a soup pot, bring 1 1/2 cups of stock to a boil. Stir in barley, cover with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer until barley is tender, about 35 minutes. (Note: If you soak the barley over night in a cup of water or stock, you can reduce cooking time to around 15 minutes.)
  2. Add the remaining stock, tamari and sherry.
  3. Saute the onions and garlic in butter over medium heat. When they soften, add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt. When all is tender, add to the barley--making sure to include all of the liquid in the pan.
  4. Generously sprinkle with black pepper and simmer for 20 minutes, covered, over the lowest possible heat. Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve hot.
Serves 6


  1. Yum. I found a mushroom, barley, kale soup that I love too. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/06/health/nutrition/05recipehealth.html

    -Mary Ann

  2. i had forgotten how great that hungarian mushroom soup was till i made it again recently. very 'contemporary' tasting.


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