I recognize that this stew is not high in the list of things that look appetizing. Mushrooms and barley really just don't do it for me, stylistically. That being said, it was easy, filling comfort food. Mine ended up fairly thick, because I added a cup of cooked rice to it at the end of the simmer time, and I'm not sure if that was a good move or not. I would definitely make it again (although maybe in the winter?) but I would halve the tomato paste, because it ended up being a little overpowering.
Mushroom and Barley Stew
1 Tablespoon Oil
½ Medium Onion, slivered (about 1¼ cups)
½ Cup Dry Barley, rinsed
2 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced (or about 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic)
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
8 Ounces Sliced Button or Cremini Mushrooms
4 Cups (1 quart) Beef or Mushroom Broth
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Bay Leaf
¼ -1 Teaspoon Salt to Taste
1 Teaspoon Miso Paste (or simply more salt to taste)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste
Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until they are translucent. Reduce the heat just a touch, add the barley, garlic, and thyme, and sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, followed by the broth, tomato paste, vinegar, bay leaf, and I would start with ¼ teaspoon of salt and the miso if using. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow the soup to simmer for at least 1 hour, or until the barley is nice and tender. Season to taste with additional salt (see my notes in the post above) and black pepper to taste.
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