1 pkg dried porcini mushrooms (if you can't find these, just saute some mushrooms and use chicken or vegetable stock for the mushroom liquid
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 lb (500 g) thin asparagus spears
1/2 cup crumbled fresh soft cheese with garlic and herbs such as Boursin
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
Salt to taste
- In a 2 cup glass measure, combine porcini mushrooms with 1 cup water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and pierce plastic wrap in several places with the point of a knife. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Remove mushrooms, squeezing out and reserving soaking liquid. Rinse and drain mushrooms, then chop finely. Strain soaking liquid through a paper towel lined sieve into a medium saucepan. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, porcini and pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until onion is soft but not browned. Stir in barley until well coated with onion mixture.
- Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring until wine has been absorbed. Stir in w2 cups stock. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until stock has been absorbed, and barley has swollen and is starting to soften.
- Meanwhile, add remaining stock to mushroom soaking liquid and heat over medium high heat until steaming. Keep warm over low heat.
- Add hot stock mixture to barley 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often and allowing barley to absorb stock before adding more, until most of stock is used (you may not need all of it) and barley is tender but still a little chewy, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile trim woody ends from asparagus by snapping spears where they break naturally. Cut asparagus diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces. Stir asparagus into barley. Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until asparagus is tender crisp. Stir in cheese and half of chives. Season with salt and more pepper to taste if necessary. Spoon into shallow bowls and sprinkle with remaining chives.