“A bread of affliction,” the Passover Haggadah calls it. And the first matzoh probably was. Made of barley flour, like the Hebrew breads at that time, it was dense and tooth-defying. As the lighter, more delicate wheat flour became available, baked goods made of barley flour took on an air of poverty and deprivation, gradually losing favor among Jews.
Not so fluffy barley kernels. For soups and pilafs, where it offers a creamy, risottolike richness, barley has remained a kitchen staple. Jewish cooks classically combine it with earthy dried mushrooms to accent the grain’s toasted nut taste.
Meaty mushrooms provide the base for this full-bodied vegetarian soup. I use tart sorrel to play up the sweet barley and dairy flavors. Add buttermilk for a fresh light dish; rich palates will choose instead a dollop of sour cream.
© 2000 Jayne Cohen. All rights reserved.