Mushroom-Barley Soup

In the next few sentences I'll be explaining why it’s been so long since I’ve eaten mushrooms, but please don't let this story deter you from making this wonderfully easy soup. I didn’t always have such a strong aversion, but one negative experience nearly ruined me. I was eating at one of my favorite Italian restaurants – the small, only locals know the address kind of place – when I decided to branch out (my fatal mistake). I always ordered the pumpkin ravioli but somehow convinced myself to try the mushroom polenta. I had recently seen an episode on Food Network that featured polenta as a lovely side dish similar to mashed potatoes, but what came out of the restaurant kitchen was not what I had in mind.

The polenta was a square block smothered in mushroom ragu. For me, it was actually inedible. I have never – never – had an experience where I couldn’t actually eat what was on my plate. I took one bite, maybe two, and was so repulsed by the smell that I just couldn’t put any more on my fork. My husband, who enjoys most foods, was equally repulsed. We still frequented the restaurant (avoiding all things mushroom, of course), but after that night I forgot about the vegetable altogether until I saw a picture of this soup in Everyday Food.

I realize this appalling story might not be the best introduction to the recipe being featured, but let’s be clear that it was this very recipe that pulled me out of my mushroom coma. This soup comes together very quickly (under 30 minutes) – perfect for Cooking After Five-types. My barley was not quick cooking, so before starting on the soup I cooked it according to the package directions so it would be ready when I was. And when I curled up on the couch and took in a big mouthful of mushrooms, I was very, very relieved.

Mushroom-Barley Soup

Recipe adapted from Everyday Food

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 1/2 cups canned reduced-sodium beef broth
1 cup barley (quick cooking or pearled)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 chunk (1 ounce) Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler


If barley is not quick cooking, cook according to package directions. In a medium pot, bring 6 cups water to a boil and add barley. Reduce heat and simmer for 50-60 minutes until barley is tender.

For the soup, in a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add broth and 2 cups water to pan; bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to a simmer; add barley (if quick cooking), and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. If barley is already cooked, add it now and stir together. Remove soup from heat; stir in parsley and lemon juice. Garnish with shaves of Parmesan cheese and serve.