2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 large celery ribs, diced small
3/4 cup pearl barley
1/2 ounce imported dried mushrooms (Porcini or other variety), rinsed and coarsely chopped
4 cups packed escarole, coarsely chopped
1 can (16 oz.) Italian peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped, juice reserved
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4″ thick
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3 quarts water or vegetable broth
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the celery and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
Stir in 3 quarts of water or vegetable broth. Add the barley, dried mushrooms, escarole and the tomatoes with their juice. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to moderately low, cover and simmer gently until the barley is tender and the broth is flavorful, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Add the carrots and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and continue to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
The soup can be made up to 2 days ahead. Let cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat slowly before serving.