If you're looking for a hearty and healthful meal, consider this dried mushroom and barley soup. The barley adds nuttiness, a sprinkle of flour lends viscosity to the broth and the dried mushrooms provide meatiness and umami. If you have fresh mushrooms on hand, you can add them, too. The result is a deliciously nourishing, vegetarian dish that everyone will love.
Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let soak until well hydrated and softened, about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid. Roughly chop the porcini and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, cremini mushrooms if using, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all vegetables are tender and mushrooms are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and the tomato paste to the pot, then continue to cook, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the flour and thyme evenly over the vegetables and cook, stirring, until flour is dissolved and no longer raw, about 1 minute. Stir in the barley, broth, reserved mushroom liquid and porcini, 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover slightly and cook until the barley is tender and the soup has thickened and reduced slightly, 30 to 35 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar and ladle into 4 bowls. Dollop with sour cream, sprinkle with parsley and serve with a slice of bread, for dipping.
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