Spinach Mushroom Barley Soup

The soup
  • 1/3 cup barley 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, diced 
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1 large, white part only, diced 
  • 1 large carrot, grated 
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped 
  • 1 small bunch garlic scapes, chopped 
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper 
  • 1 cup sour cream
To finish
  • 1/3 cup barley 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 3 cups spinach, finely minced 
  • ½ cup mushrooms, thinly sliced 
  • 1 leek, white part only, halved, then slivered lengthwise into pieces about 3 inches long

Directions

Cover the soup barley with hot water and set it aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Heat the oil and add 1 tablespoon butter in a soup pot over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion and oregano, give a stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the leek, carrot, and garlic. 

Cook for 10 minutes more, by which time a glaze will have formed on the bottom of the pan. Season with 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Drain the barley and add it to the pot along with 6 cups water. Cook until the barley is soft, about 30 minutes, then puree the soup with the sour cream until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, taste for salt, and season with pepper. Rinse the remaining 1/3 cup barley, put it in the saucepan, and cover generously wit water. Add a little salt and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. 

Drain and keep warm. Simmer the leek in salted water until tender, after 5 minutes or so, drain, and toss in a little butter. Melt the remaining butter in a small skillet, add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and sauté over medium-high heat until golden, about 5 minutes, add the minced spinach near the very end. If the pan looks really dry, as it can with shiitake mushrooms and ½ cup water and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the mushrooms have browned. 

Serve the soup with a spoonful or two of the cooked barley in each bowl, the leeks, mushrooms, and spinach piled on top.