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Mushroom Barley Stew with Spinach

I wasn’t planning on doing another mushroom anything for awhile, but when X brought home a sack (!) of girolles they other day, I was knee-deep in mushroomland again. Not that I’m complaining. I just wish that I’d brought my mushroom brush with me from Dallas (which I never needed because the store-bought mushrooms were always dirt-free), or had the good sense to buy one when I was at BHV the other day. No matter what anyone says, a dishrag, damp or not, isn’t the best tool to get the dirt out of the crevices and cone-shaped caps of these wild French mushrooms.

I found a recipe for a barley stew with baby bella mushrooms and kale in an old Bon Appetit, and figured I could adapt it to what I had on hand. The original recipe called for  garlic and fresh rosemary, both of which I decided against because I didn’t want to overwhelm the girolles’ delicate flavor. Instead, I used dried herbes de Provence, but not too much. I also substituted spinach for kale, because that’s what I found at the market. For serving, I added lemon zest, which brightened up this earthy stew.

Super-fast to put together, this soup cooks in less than an hour, and is hearty and warm without being too heavy.

Since mushroom season is in full bloom over here, I’m putting “buy mushroom brush” on my list. Or maybe just a soft toothbrush would do. I’ll get back with you on that.

Mushroom-Barley Stew with Spinach

Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, sliced (white parts only)
½ pound girolles or other fancy mushrooms (cepes, bellas work here, too)
½ pound white mushrooms
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups water or vegetable broth
8 oz. (about 8-10 cups) spinach, washed, and stalks trimmed (and removed if the pieces are large)
sea salt

1. Brush the dirt off of the mushrooms and cut them into pieces about the same size (I tried to leave the girolles whole if I could and quartered the white mushrooms). 

2. Cut the cleaned, trimmed spinach into pieces of about 1/2-inch wide. Set aside.

2. Put the oil and leeks in a large stockpot and turn the heat on medium. Cook until the leeks begin to soften; about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until brown (you may need to work in batches so the mushrooms don’t crowd the pan); this will also take about 5 minutes. Now, add the herbes de Provence, tomatoes and juice, barley, and water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce and cover and let cook until the barley is tender, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasonings. Right before serving, add the spinach, and let cook for a minute or two, just to the point where it begins to wilt  – you want to keep the vibrant green color. Serve with lemon zest.