Enough chit-chat. Let’s cook, shall we?
See that up there? The New York Times calls it barley soup with mushrooms and kale. Barley soup with mushrooms.
If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re thinking: why isn’t it called mushroom barley soup with kale?
Is it barley-er than the classic soup? Is it less mushroom-y? No and no. The mushroom and barley get equal billing here (and share very nicely with supporting actor kale). Which really should make it mushroom barley soup with kale.
If I had to compare it to what I know of mushroom barley soup, I’d say it’s, well, soupier.
Maybe we should call it soup with barley, mushrooms, and kale.
But that just sounds odd, don’t you think?
Barley soup with mushrooms and kale
I adapted this recipe from the New York Times, skipping the dried mushrooms and upping the garlic. I’m still working up the guts to use regular kale, but for now I’m dipping my toe in with the more tender baby kale. Be patient with me, people, be patient. I’m getting there.
So here’s the thing: I’ve never been a fan of mushroom barley soup – it always seemed thick and slimy. But this one is, as I said before, soupier. And it’s good. Good enough that I ate it for lunch four days in a row. As it sits in the fridge, the barley will absorb more of the liquid, so you’ll have to add some liquid (I just used water) to thin the soup a bit. To keep it bright, I squeezed some lemon and chopped some parsley after re-heating. Admittedly, by day four, I was happy to see the bottom of the pot.
- 1-2 T olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms (sometimes called baby portabellas)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 qt (8 C) water
- 3/4 C pearl barley
- a handful of fresh parsley, divided
- a few sprigs thyme
- parmesan rind
- 5 oz baby kale
- lemon for juice
- kosher salt and black pepper
Chop, cook, and stir. Cover the bottom of a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven with the olive oil and heat over medium until shimmering. While the oil is heating, chop the onion and thickly slice the mushrooms. Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring frequently until just tender (don’t let it brown), about 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, continuing to stir for another 3 minutes or so until they start to soften and release their moisture. Mince the garlic and add it to the pot with a good pinch of salt. Cook and stir for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms start to reabsorb their moisture and the whole mix dries out.
Simmer. Add the water, barley, a few sprigs each of parsley and thyme, and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes. The barley won’t yet be cooked through.
Slice. Stack the kale leaves in bunches and slice crosswise into slivers.
Keep simmering. Add the kale to the simmering soup and continue to simmer, covered, for another 15-20 minutes.
Serve. Remove the parsley and thyme sprigs, taste for salt and pepper, and stir in a few squeezes of lemon. Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle a pinch over each bowl.
Store. The soup should keep in the fridge for a few days, but the barley will absorb liquid. Just add a bit more water before you reheat to get the right consistency. Don’t forget the lemon and parsley. I suspect that the soup also freezes well.