If there's any 'trick' to doing this soup well, it's to make it the day before. No question that the soup develops flavor and character when it sits in the fridge overnight. Considering there's barley in it, too, the soup thickens a bit upon standing, which accentuates its texture and makes it seem 'richer' than it is.
3/4 c pearl barley
1 shallot, chopped fine
1 lb button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
2 Tbp each, fresh sage and parsley, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, grated/shredded
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbp tomato paste
6 cups stock (beef or chicken)
Start with the barley,which you'll cook in copious salted water, drain, then set aside. The barley will take about 45 minutes to cook until tender, but not mushy.
In a skillet, melt 4 Tbp butter in 2 Tbp olive oil, and sauté one finely chopped shallot about 2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until tender and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped parsley and sage. Set aside.
In a Dutch oven, sauté onion, carrot, garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, and sauté a minute or two more. Add stock. Add the sautéed mushrooms and barley. Bring to a simmer, lower heat, and let simmer gently for 15 minutes before serving.
Toss some chopped parsley or minced chives on top of each serving if you want.
Again, this is SOOOO much better the next day.