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Want to loosen winter's iron grip? Make soup.

Simple, warming and satisfying, soup is the ultimate cold-weather meal in a bowl. Make it meatless by focusing on the local root vegetables and mushrooms now in our farmers markets and co-ops.

To build bold, robust flavors, rely on a few basic and easy steps. Start by cooking the onions and garlic, along with the other vegetables, in a deep saucepan or Dutch oven in a little oil or butter so they'll caramelize and condense. Fresh mushrooms add that meaty or umami quality, while a medley of root vegetables adds substance and an earthy flavor. Along with potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, celery root or parsnips, try adding a few radishes, such as daikon, for zip.

Once the vegetables are thoroughly cooked and their juices have released and glazed the pot, stir in the whole grains and pour in enough stock to cover everything by a good 2 inches. Barley, farro or wheat or rye berries make great choices to simmer along with all the other ingredients. Whole grains retain their texture no matter how long or how often they're simmered. Unlike pasta or rice, whole grains don't get mushy or fall apart. You can also add leftover cooked grains after the soup is cooked.

Soup recipes are just starting points, so have fun and be flexible. If the color or flavor is too "light," give the soup a shot of soy or Worcestershire sauce. If the soup seems too thin, swirl in good olive oil or butter or a dollop of cream.

Remember the age-old advice: "A good soup maker must be a good taster." So, season, taste, and season again.

Barley Soup with Mushrooms and Root Vegetables

Serves 4.

Note: The key to this soup is browning the vegetables long enough to caramelize and create a glaze (or fond) on the bottom of the pot. Use a good stock, either homemade or boxed, and finish the soup with a shot of Worcestershire sauce for color and flavor. All you need is a thick slice of warm, multigrain bread to sop all of the juices up! From Beth Dooley.

• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil

• 1 medium leek, white part only, sliced into 2-in. pieces

• 1 shallot, chopped

• 1 lb. mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake or button, stemmed and roughly chopped

• 2 medium carrots, sliced into 1-in. chunks

• 1 parsnip, sliced into 1-in. chunks

• 1 small daikon radish, cut into 1-in. chunks

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 c. pearl barley

• 1/4 c. dry white wine

• 3 to 4 c. vegetable or chicken stock

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme

• 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, to taste


Film a large deep saucepan or Dutch oven with oil; set over medium heat. Add the leek, shallot, mushrooms, carrots and parsnips, and stir to coat with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the vegetables release their juices, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring, until the juices become a thick glaze. Stir in the barley and then the wine, scraping up any browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the stock and add the bay leaf and thyme.

Partially cover the pot and continue simmering until the barley is tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with the Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at