Truly Superior Mushroom Barley Soup

I love the New England Soup Factory Cookbook. One of the recipes that really caught my eye was the Wild Mushroom and Barley Soup. Wild mushroom, tomato paste, garlic, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, broth red wine . . .   As my grandmother A”H would have said, with all those good ingredients, how could it not be delicious?

If not made properly, Mushroom Barley soup can look and taste a bit insipid. This recipe intensifies the flavor, texture and even color of the soup. Tomato and wine add color and flavor sharpening acidity. The wild mushrooms add more flavor and texture. Another improvement is the suggestion to limit the cooking time to keep the barley chewy rather than mushy.

I veered quite a bit off course in making the soup, using only cremini mushrooms instead of the mix of shitake, portobello, chanterelle and enoki. Instead of broth, I used water (well seasoned with salt and pepper, of course). I shifted the balance of vegetables ever so slightly just because of what was on hand. Instead of tomato paste, I used tomato juice.

Did you know that you can sometimes substitute tomato juice for tomato paste? It really only works when you are adding tomato paste and a liquid at the same time. Tomato juice (read the label) is made primarily from water and tomato paste.

What you do is figure that every cup of bottled tomato juice is about 3 Tbl. tomato paste and 3/4 cup water. So, if you need a Tbl. of tomato paste, and you are supposed to add it at the same time as water, you add 1/3 cup of tomato juice and subtract 4 Tbl. of water from what you would otherwise add. If you are dealing with soup, especially an absorbent soup like mushroom barley, you don’t even need to subtract out the liquid.

This trick, of course, works in reverse if you need tomato juice for a recipe and only have tomato paste on hand.  If you need a quart of tomato juice, just mix a 6 ounce can with 24 ounces or so of water (okay, that makes 30 ounces, not 32 ounces, but whatever . . . ).

Wild Mushroom and Barley Soup
Adapted from the New England Soup Book. By adapted, I mean that I carefully read the recipe and then did whatever I wanted. Take a look at the original recipe for the original directions. Among other things, I cut the recipe in half, which is what I do with all the recipes from this book. Except, I didn’t cut all the vegetables in half , because I was using water instead of broth and felt that more vegetables would compensate flavor-wise. Well, read the recipe, and you’ll see.

In a large soup pot, heat some olive oil, add the vegetables, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until tender (I think this called “sweating the mirepoix”):

2 Tbl. olive oil (full amount from original recipe)
2 cloves garlic (full amount from original recipe)
1 1/2 cups diced onions (full amount from recipe–I used a large onion)
2 carrots, sliced or diced (original amount was 1 1/2 cups, but I used maybe 1/2 cup)
2 stalk celery, diced (original amount was 1/2 cup)
(I also added a little salt and pepper here, but the original recipe doesn’t call for that)

When the onion is softened and translucent, add the mushrooms and saute some more until the mushrooms give up their liquid and then that liquid evaporates off (original recipe just says add and cook 5 minutes):
8 ounce box baby bella or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced caps and minced stems (original amount was 3 large portobellas, diced)
(here is what I left out: 1 cup shitake mushrooms and 1 cup chanterelle mushrooms, sliced)

When the mushroom liquid has cooked off and the vegetables are starting to stew in the oil again, add the wine (the original recipe says to add the wine with the rest of the ingredients, but I like to cook off the alcohol a little, and so I add it first):

1 cup red wine (original recipe called for 2 cups burgundy wine, but I was cutting the liquid and barley in half to make a smaller batch of soup, so I cut the wine in half, too)

When the wine has cooked down a bit (however much or little you like), add the rest of the ingredients:
3/4 cup barley (half the amount of the original recipe–and it is plenty with the liquid being cut in half. More than plenty)
1/2-3/4 cup tomato juice (original recipe calls for 3 Tbl. tomato paste, which would be 1 1/2 Tbl. when the recipe is cut in half. See above explanation of how to substitute tomato juice for tomato paste)
5 cups water or broth (original recipe calls for 10 cups chicken or beef broth)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano (original recipe, for full batch, calls for 1 tsp. EACH of oregano and basil)
salt, pepper, to taste

Simmer 45 minutes to an hour.

Original recipe calls for adding, off heat:
1 cup enoki mushrooms (didn’t have and didn’t use)
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (I really felt the acidity was more than enough without the addition of any vinegar)

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One Response to “Truly Superior Mushroom Barley Soup”

  1. Mrs. S. Says:

    This sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe and also the tip about the tomato paste/tomato juice.

    Shavua tov!

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