A stunning Western Canadian version of an Italian classic. This one is crammed with mushrooms. The barley has a toothsome texture that is delightful. Feel free to enjoy as is, or top with some cooked meat. If you can’t find dried shiitakes, substitute fresh and skip the reconstituting step and use chicken stock in place of the mushroom liquid.

Serves 4 as a main dish

5 dried whole shiitake mushrooms

1 1/2 cups boiling water

2 tbsp butter

2 cups sliced assorted fresh mushrooms

¼ tsp dried thyme

Salt, to taste

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2/3 cup diced bacon

2 tbsp butter

1 cup barley, unrinsed

mushroom juice from reconstituting dry mushrooms, or chicken stock

4 cups chicken stock, approximately

1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Place shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and pour over the hot water. Cover with a lid and let sit for 1 hour or longer. Line a sieve with several layers of moistened cheese cloth. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, which you will use later.

Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and discard. Slice the caps. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp butter, the fresh sliced mushrooms and sliced shiitakes, thyme and some salt; saute for several minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup mushroom liquid or chicken stock and simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Set aside.

In a medium pot over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic and bacon in the butter for 5 minutes. Add the barley and toast over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 cup of the drained mushroom juice and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add ½ cup chicken stock and stir frequently (no need to stir constantly) until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to add stock, ½ cup at a time and stirring frequently, until the barley becomes tender but still has a bit of bite, about 20-25 minutes.

To serve, fold in the sauteed mushrooms and ½ cup of the grated parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spoon into serving bowls and top with additional grated parmesan and some finely chopped parsley.