Mushroom stock is a versatile staple to keep on hand — its deep, rich flavor and color make it a great substitute for beef stock. We save the scraps of vegetables from the soup — peels, ends and stems — to fortify the stock, so nothing goes to waste. If you have it, you can substitute 4 cups roasted vegetable stock.
Serves 6 to 8; Makes 8 cups
1½ cups reserved vegetable trimmings from the soup (onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms and garlic)
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
8 cups filtered water
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter stick
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as cremini and shiitake, stemmed, wiped of grit and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh rosemary sprig
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup sweet Madeira wine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
½ cup farro (see Note), rinsed
Truffle salt (optional)
1) To prepare the stock: Combine the vegetable trimmings and dried shiitake mushrooms in a medium saucepan, pour in the water and bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer the stock for 30 minutes more.
2) Carefully pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof container and use the back of a wooden spoon to press on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible; discard the solids. You should have about 4 cups mushroom stock.
3) To prepare the soup: Put a soup pot over medium heat and add the oil and butter substitute. When the butter substitute has melted, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and rosemary, season with salt and pepper, and turn the vegetables over with a wooden spoon, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and vinegar and stir until almost evaporated. Add the stock and simmer, uncovered, until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes.
4) Meanwhile, prepare the farro: Put a dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add the farro, and toast, shaking the pan periodically, until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5) Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the toasted farro, stir with a wooden spoon and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, until the farro is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well in a sieve and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.
6) Stir the farro into the soup and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
7) Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with truffle salt, if using, and serve.
Note: Farro is similar to wheat berries but better all around, as far as I’m concerned. I’m crazy about its hearty nuttiness and firm but chewy texture. Popular since the golden days of ancient Rome, this healthful whole grain stands up to everything from salads to soups. It is a rich source of vitamins and nutrients, as well as protein and fiber. Farro is available in most grocery stores and health food stores. Look for the semi-pearled variety, which allows for speedier cooking. Toasting farro in a dry pan before cooking makes the flavor extra nutty. I cook farro just like pasta, uncovered, in plenty of boiling salted water, and then drain. Some packages call for cooking farro like rice, tightly covered in a measured amount of water until the water is absorbed, but I find this method makes it a bit mushy.
Excerpted from “Crossroads” by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Lisa Romerein.