Barley is so good for you ... and how can you live in Sonoma County and not like mushrooms? To me, mushrooms and barley were made for each other, and the Sweet Vermouth is just icing on the cake. And, do try white pepper ... it has a rounder taste than the black and really makes this wonderful soup.
1/4 C. pearl barley
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
2 large onions, cut in half and sliced thin
1 t. minced garlic
1 bay leaf
3 T. sweet vermouth
7 C. water
2 t. coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (if you haven’t tried white pepper … you must)
1/2 C. chopped Italian parsley
Cover the barley with water 1” above it’s surface. Boil for 2 minutes and let rest in the water for 1 hour. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth and set aside.
In saucepan, heat butter & olive oil, add onions, garlic & bay leaf and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and continue to cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes more, stirring frequently, until the onions turn a rich, dark brown (don’t burn them)! Stir in the vermouth and cook for 3-5 minutes, until vermouth evaporates.
Quarter mushrooms, add to pot. Cook and stir for 15 minutes over medium-low heat. The longer you cook them the richer the flavor will be. Drain the barley and stir into the mushrooms. Add water & salt, bring to boil, reduce heat & simmer, covered for 45 minutes, until barley is tender (check from time to time). Discard the bay leaf and add the pepper with more salt to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with some wonderful home-made bread to sop up the remains.