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Beef and Barley Soup

For an earthier soup, replace the button mushrooms with a variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms, such as cremini, chanterelle, shiitake and/or porcini.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1/4 cup pearl barley
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 4 cups beef stock, homemade (see related recipe at left) or purchased
  • 1/2 lb. boneless beef sirloin, cut into thin slices and then finely chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook the barley
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the 1 tsp. salt and the barley and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook the barley until just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set aside.

Prepare the soup base
When the barley has been cooking for about an hour, set a large saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and mushrooms and sauté until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and beef, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

Finish the soup
When the barley is ready, add it to the soup and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Soup, by Georgeanne Brennan (Oxmoor House, 2006).