whole food ~ well made

Wild mushroom and barley ragout at

Morel Mushroom and Barley Ragout with Spinach

There are many forms of foraging–in my mind, as on this blog. As in, “I’m going to forage in the refrigerator for leftovers for lunch.” In this post, I literally went foraging in the woods near my home for morel mushrooms.

If you’ve ever wondered what all the rage is about wild mushrooms, the answer, I believe, lies in the hunt.

Perhaps it is in the core of our genes that we find deep satisfaction in finding our own food.

Morel season has come to eastern Oregon and everyone is posting their finds on social media. “Twenty two pounds at Salt Creek Summit.” Photos of blondes, blacks and one morel as tall as as the long side of a one dollar bill.

Finding a morel feels like striking gold. There you are in the woods scanning the under story for signs of mushrooms. Is there disturbed ground? Are they hiding on the underside of that damp log?

And then you take a step and between your feet is one of those edible fungi. Once you know the color of the cap, which can vary from black-brown to silvery-blonde, you reset your vision to scan for the exact shape and the color and keep looking.

A recipe for mushroom-barley ragout with or without wild mushrooms at

Morels seem to appear and disappear at will. I picture them as tiny gnomes with magical properties. If you spot one and look away, it will be hard to find it again–at least it is for an amateur like me.

The more you find, the more you’re convinced that you’re walking by others who are laughing at you behind your back.

If you don’t find any at all, self doubt nags. You wonder if you’re in the right spot, if they’re just up the hill or down the hill or over the next draw–or you are simply not seeing them.

There is nothing to be done but to keep trying.

You’re addicted. But in a good way because the excursion is more like a walking meditation through the woods.

A recipe for mushroom-barley ragout with or without wild mushrooms at

Every year I promise myself that I’m going to study to become a better hunter. As soon as I return from the woods, I forget my resolve until I’m out there again. Wandering and wondering.

Of course, there are easier ways to score wild mushrooms. You may choose to forage for wild spring mushrooms, like morels, at the farmers market or the grocery store. They are a luxury for sure.

And, in a richly flavored risotto like this, you can substitute regular old cultivated mushrooms {I prefer cremini} like I did this past winter and most of the time when I don’t have wild mushrooms. With a dash of porcini powder {my kitchen superpower}, you’ll hardly miss a thing.

Well, except the hunt itself.


and become a forager

Wild mushroom and barley ragout at
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5 from 1 vote

Morel Mushroom-Barley Ragout with Spinach

When I find enough morel mushrooms for a meal, risotto is the first thing I think of making. But this hearty, grain-based "stew"--or ragout--is a quicker and uses barley instead. It is a terrific vegetarian main dish for company or a side for grilled steak.
In place of the morels (to supplement the wild mushrooms you do have), use any combination of purchased wild (like porcini, black trumpet or yellow feet) or domestic (cremini or portabella) mushroom.
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Lynne


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds morel mushrooms, halved or store-bought wild or domestic mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 cups cooked barley
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 cup parmesan broth (see Recipe Notes) or chicken stock
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups fresh spinach, stemmed or 1 1/2 cups frozen
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter
  • shaved parmesan cheese for serving


  • Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and salt, stirring once to combine. After the mushrooms release all their liquid, add the garlic and thyme. 
  • Morel mushrooms release a lot of liquid. Keep the heat steady and cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes.
  • Lower the heat and add the barley and wine into the pan. Simmer for a minute, then add the broth. Simmer to reduce the liquid slightly. Taste for seasoning and add black pepper to taste.
  • Mound the spinach on top of the barley, cover and steam just until wilted. Uncover the pan, and stir to distribute the spinach. Add the butter and stir until it barely melts into the liquids, thickening them a bit. Taste once again for seasoning before serving with the shaved parmesan cheese.


To make parmesan broth: Cover the rinds from parmesan cheese {I stockpile them in the freezer} in a saucepan with water and simmer for at least 1 hour until flavorful. Discard the rinds and strain the liquid to use for this ragout as well as soups, stews and risotto.
To substitute cremini mushrooms for wild mushroom, cook the mushrooms as directed adding 1 tablespoon porcini powder.


  1. Healthy, delicious, and easy recipe! Just what I was looking for, Lynne!

    1. So happy to hear that, Agness. This is definitely what I’m into eating this spring!

  2. Suzanne

    5 stars
    A great vegetarian dish with morels, and almost vegan . . . I used this for brunch especially for a friend who trends toward a vegan diet, and everyone enjoyed it. Great flavor and texture, and healthy to boot, thank you for sharing!
    Ps – because I was in a rush I skipped the thyme (no pun intended!) and I used a lesser quantity or rehydrated morels, but still great mushroom flavor! I added the soaking liquid and used vegetarian Better Than Bullion when cooking the barley to add flavor, then skipped the salt.

    1. I’d never thought of this for brunch—great idea! Sounds like a wonderful time.

    2. Suzanne

      I meant to say “of dehydrated” morels! 🙂
      Thank you, Lynne! Will be making this dish again!

    3. Terrific!

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