Zuppa di Orzo - Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom-Barley Soup

  • 4 cups chicken broth (you can make this entirely vegetarian if you want by using vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 12 oz. white "button" mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion, minced finely
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped finely
  • 1 carrot, cut into small bits
  • 1 bay leaf
  • small bit of finely chopped rosemary
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • heavy cream (optional)
  • sour cream (optional)
Bring 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth to a boil and add the barley. Let it simmer for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the soup. Soak the porcini mushrooms in the water for about 20 minutes or until the mushrooms have softened. Don't throw away the liquid, but strain it through a filter and reserve.
In a large pot, saute the onions in the oil until soft, then add the garlic, minced celery and carrot bits. Add the fresh mushrooms and continue sauteing until the mushrooms have developed some color and are cooked. Add the porcini mushrooms and their reserved liquid. At this point, if the barley has softened, add it and the liquid it was cooking in into the pot. Add the remaining chicken broth. Add the sherry and seasonings, including the bay leaf and cook for another half hour, until thickened. If necessary, add more water or stock if it gets too thick.
If you want to make it a creamy soup, add heavy cream to your liking, and serve with a dollop of sour cream.