Pearl barley is a great-tasting, low-gluten grain that too often gets overlooked. If you can find hulled barley, it is even more nutritious. If you don’t have barley on hand, substitute brown rice. If... you finish cooking the veggies before the grain has finished cooking, add the rice and its liquid as directed in step 5, and add the missing time for the grain to the final cooking. This stovetop mushroom-barley paella dish is also a great recipe to use up leftover brown Rice or other grain.
Cover mushrooms in hot water and let sit until softened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Pour mixture over a strainer into a small bowl. Press mushrooms to remove any liquid. Reserve soaking liquid. Roughly chop the mushrooms. If using shiitake, discard tough stems. Set aside.
Put barley in a pot with the mushroom soaking water, stock, a good pinch of salt, parsley sprig and a drizzle of olive oil. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes. Check the barley for doneness after 25 minutes. It should be almost done but not quite, as it will finish cooking in step 5.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, shallow stovetop-to-oven dish, with a lid. Add the thyme and garlic and cook until the garlic begins to take color. Add the shallots and peppers. Cook, stirring, until the peppers soften and the shallots start to caramelize.
Add the dried mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley. Sauté for a few minutes. Add the cumin and paprika, cook for a minute, then add the diced portabellas, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and sauté until the mushrooms wilt and darken, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the lemon water and cook until it has a syrupy consistency. Cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. By this time the grain should be ready.
Remove the parsley sprig and add the barley to the mushrooms, along with any cooking liquid left in the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the grain is al dente. Stir in the cilantro and remaining parsley, heat through and serve.
Hulled barley, takes longer to cook, so up the initial cooking time in step 1 to 45 minutes and double the amount of stock used.