Kale, Mushroom and Barley Soup
Here’s the lowdown:
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups boiling water
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced thick
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
3/4 cup whole or pearl barley
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or water
A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a bay leaf and a Parmesan rind
8 to 10 ounces kale (regular or cavolo nero), stemmed and washed thoroughly
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl or a Pyrex measuring cup, and pour on two cups boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Set a strainer over a bowl, and line it with cheesecloth. Lift the mushrooms from the water and squeeze over the strainer, then rinse in several changes of water. Squeeze out the water and set aside. Strain the soaking water through the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Add water as necessary to make two cups. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until just about tender, about five minutes, and add the sliced fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are beginning to soften, about three minutes, and add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook for about five minutes, until the mixture is juicy and fragrant. Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms, the barley, the mushroom soaking liquid, and the stock or water. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Meanwhile, stack the kale leaves in bunches and cut crosswise into slivers. Simmer the bouquet garni during the 45 minute simmering, then pull it out when the soup is done.
3. Add the kale to the simmering soup, and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The barley should be tender and the broth aromatic. The kale should be very tender. Remove the bouquet garni, taste and adjust salt, add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and serve.
In the cooks corner:
I didn’t get off to the best start as my local grocer did not have porcini mushrooms. I tiptoed around this by purchasing mushroom stock to substitute in for the porcini liquid & chicken stock required. And y’all know me- I didn’t start taking pictures of this process until everything was chopped up and in the pot. Oops! Using the mushroom stock I would also omit one of the cups of water- it would have just been too bland with all that extra water in there. Anyhow, the soup turned out great after a bit of extra salt and pepper, and will definitely be a repeat. Served it with a big salad and sliced warm jalapeño cheddar sourdough…perfect for staying in and watching the 5 inches of snowfall we got last night come down.