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Beef Mushroom Barley Soup

Yield: 12 entrée-size servings (recipe may be halved)

  • 1 oz. dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into small pieces (1/2 inch)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. assorted fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 white turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups canned beef broth (2 cans)
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soak porcini mushrooms in 1 cup hot water until soft (20 minutes). Remove from liquid, squeezing dry. Coarsely chop mushrooms. Set liquid and mushrooms aside separately.

Heat oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Film the pan with half of the olive oil. Add about half the beef pieces, without crowding, and brown quickly on each side, for about 1-2 minutes, turning once. Remove from pan, and repeat with second batch of meat. Remove from pan.

Add remaining tablespoon oil. Add onions, turning heat down to medium. Sauté until onions begin to soften a bit, about 2-3 minutes, seasoning them lightly with salt and pepper. Add all the fresh mushrooms, and cook until they and the onions are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add porcini mushrooms, celery, carrots and garlic and stir and cook 1 minute. Carefully pour porcini soaking liquid into pot, leaving behind any grit in the bottom of the bowl. Add all remaining ingredients to the pot, including 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover with lid askew and simmer until meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Taste, and re-season soup with salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Re-warm over medium heat. Soup can be made several days in advance, and will be better the second day. It may need to be thinned when reheated.