A lighter mushroom barley soup than you may be familiar with, this one gets a blast of bracing flavor from lemon, tamari, ginger, and chile-garlic paste. The soup is a great example of using simple broths — Dried Mushroom Broth and the broth left after cooking grains — to build a vegetarian soup.

You could really use any hearty grain here, but my method for cooking barley as if it were pasta ensures that the barley has a pleasant chewy (not mushy) texture, so I recommend this nutritious grain.

To serve the soup, put a mound of grains in the middle of a soup bowl and spoon the broth and veggies around. If you want to make the broth and veggies ahead (and I find the broth gets more flavorful when held overnight), they will keep in the fridge for a few days. But don’t add the grains until serving or they will soak up all the liquid!

You can use Tuscan (or other) kale, collards, bok choy or whatever sturdy green you want in this soup. Use the directions as a template and adjust your seasonings at the end as you like. If you are not concerned about making a vegetarian soup, I recommend adding a couple teaspoons of oyster sauce to the final broth for some extra umami.

A version of this recipe appeared in my cookbook Simple Green Suppers (Roost Books, 2017).

Susie Middleton

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces (about 4 ½ cups) thickly sliced cremini and (stemmed) fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Asian-chili garlic sauce
  • 3 cups sliced stemmed Tuscan kale, collard greens, bok choy or other green
  • 1 cup tiny diced sweet potatoes or peeled butternut squash
  • 2 ½ to 3 cups Dried Mushroom Broth plus any reconstituted mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 ½ cups liquid from cooking barley, farro, or brown rice
  • 2 cups cooked barley, farro, or brown rice (rewarmed if necessary)
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons oyster sauce (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, a bit more for serving
  • Sliced scallions for serving

1. In a small Dutch oven (I use my nonstick pasta pot), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt and turn the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are browned and shrunken, about 8 minutes.

2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chili-garlic sauce, the greens, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until well-combined. Add the sweet potatoes or butternut, the mushroom broth, and the grain liquid. Bring to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the greens are softened and the sweet potatoes or squash are just tender. (If using tender greens like bok choy or spinach, you can wait a few minutes to add them in.)

3. Remove the pot from the stove (or turn off the heat), and add the tamari, lemon juice, and oyster sauce (optional). Taste and add more tamari or lemon if you like. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the cilantro. At this point you can hold the soup overnight.

4. To serve, spoon or scoop a half-cup of warm barley (or other grain) into the center of each of four shallow soup bowls and spoon an equal portion of broth and vegetables around the grain. Serve right away, garnished with some sliced scallions and a bit more cilantro.