This simple mushroom ragu uses a technique called a dry sauté. Mushrooms are mostly water, and cooking them without any added oil drives most of it off. The mushroom flavor is concentrated and the mouthfeel becomes more firm.
For the shopping list
brown or white mushrooms, sliced
From our shop
$8 - Pantelleria - Sicily
$7 - Olhão - Portugal
$6 - Yolo Valley - California
Substitute whole tomatoes, but crush them with your hands before adding
$9 - Reggio-Emilia - Italy
From the kitchen
Large Sauce Pan + Lid
Put 1/2lb of barley into a pot with a lid, stir in a good pinch of sea salt, and add enough water to cover the grain by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for at least 45 minutes, adding water as needed to keep the barley covered. Keep tasting and when it’s slightly soft but still chewy, remove from the heat and drain.
Make the ragu while the barley is simmering. Heat a heavy skillet and add the 1lb of sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, in the dry skillet, turning frequently, until nicely browned and most of the liquid is gone, about 15-20 minutes.
Add a healthy glug (3-4 tablespoons) of olive oil, the 10-12 crushed thyme flowers, 1 teaspoon of oregano, a pinch of the freshly ground pepper, and the 2-3 chopped garlic cloves. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and cook for about a minute. Add the can tomatoes, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.
Top the cooked barley with the ragu. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Naked barley, spicy Haitian-style pickled cabbage, and Portuguese sardines make this salad a little different.