Mushroom and Farro Soup

I’ve been on a soup-making routine here the past few weeks.  I think it started when I got so sick with the flu shortly after the New Year began.  All I wanted to eat was soup; it was the only thing that offered any appeal.   This is a very good vegetarian version of mushroom barley soup, but I wouldn’t hesitate to add a little diced beef to the bowl of anyone who feels they need some added protein.  It would be a great way to use up  leftover pot roast.  I have added a parsley pesto as a garnish and love the bright freshness it adds to the earthy mushrooms and grains.  There’s really nothing as good as a mug of hot soup on a cold winter day. 

Mushroom and Farro Soup
(makes about 8 servings)
1 1/2 ounces dried mushrooms (I used a combination of porcini and chanterelles)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup farro (or barley, if farro is hard to find)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 stalks celery heart, cut into 1/4 inch dice
kosher salt
1 pound fresh mushrooms; any combination of wild, button, brown that is readily available, cleaned, trimmed, and coarsely chopped or sliced
4 garlic cloves, cut in half, green shoots removed, and sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
freshly ground pepper
A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs of parsley, thyme, tarragon, and a bay leaf
Parsley Pesto (recipe below) for optional garnish
Place the dried mushrooms in a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or a bowl and pour on 3 cups hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes.  Agitate the mushrooms from time to time to release any sand.  Lift the reconstituted mushrooms from the soaking water and squeeze over the water.  Rinse the mushrooms in 2 to 3 changes of water until there is no more sand in the bowl, swishing them in a bowl and lifting them from the water.  Chop the mushrooms coarsely.  Strain the soaking liquid through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.  Combine with enough water or vegetable stock to measure 2 quarts and set aside.  In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and add the farro.  Cook, stirring, until it begins to smell like popcorn.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil and the onion, carrot, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables have begun to soften.  Add the fresh and reconstituted dried mushrooms, the garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring until the mushrooms begin to soften and release liquid, about 5  minutes.  Turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook slowly for 5 minutes.  Add the wine and the tomato paste and stir together for a few minutes, until the mixture is very fragrant.  Add the liquid and the bouquet garni and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 45 minutes, until the farro is tender and the grains have opened up.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.  Remove the bouquet garni.  Serve, drizzling a teaspoon or two of parsley pesto over each bowl, if desired.
Parsley Pesto
(makes about 2/3 cup)
2 cups tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon tightly packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tightly packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, as needed
2 to 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
freshly ground pepper (optional)
In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the steel blade, place the chopped herbs, garlic, and salt.  Process until finely chopped.  With the machine running, stream in enough olive oil to make a smooth puree.  Blend in the cheese, if you are using it, and season with pepper as desired.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
(from “New Classic Family Dinners” by Mark Peel)


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