What better way to enjoy mushrooms than in a soup? This cozy and hearty Mushroom and Delicata Squash Soup with Farro is loaded with contrasting textures and flavors, thanks to chewy farro, meaty mushrooms, and tender delicata squash. Stirring miso paste into the warm broth just before serving accentuates the umaminess of the mushrooms, while providing gut- and brain-healthy probiotics. Farro is a whole grain that looks like brown rice when cooked, but has a more complex, nutty flavor. Plus, farro exceeds brown rice in brain health nutrients, with more protein, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. Be sure to buy semi-pearled farro for this soup, which cooks in around 20 minutes.
Mushrooms provide two powerful antioxidants—ergothioneine and glutathione—linked to better cognition with age. As we get older, we absorb less ergothioneine from our foods. Keeping mushrooms on regular rotation in your diet will ensure your brain can benefit from their actions. Mushrooms have also been associated with less dementia. Dr. Robert Beelman, professor emeritus at Penn State, has observed that Italians who eat more wild mushrooms have less neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large celery stalks, finely chopped (about 3⁄4 cup), leaves torn and reserved to garnish
2 large shallots, finely chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms, such as cremini, button, maitake, oyster, and shiitake, trimmed and roughly chopped (about 6 cups total)
1 medium delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into half moons
1⁄2 cup semi-pearled farro
8 cups vegetable stock or water
3 tablespoons white miso paste
1 large lemon, juiced and zested
Flaky salt (optional)
1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the celery, shallot, and 1⁄2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
2. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to soften and release their liquid, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the squash, farro, stock, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until you can easily pierce the squash with the tip of a knife and the farro is tender but chewy, 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Use a fork to stir 2 tablespoons of the warm broth with the miso paste in a small bowl to make a smooth paste. Stir the miso mixture, lemon juice and zest into the soup. Continue to cook until warmed through.
4. Divide the soup between bowls and sprinkle with the celery leaves and flaky salt, if using, plus more fresh ground black pepper, if you like.
Friend of WAM Annie Fenn, M.D. is a chef and founder of Brain Health Kitchen, which is devoted to helping you cook and eat more brain-healthy foods. For more recipes and tips, visit her website and keep an eye out for her upcoming cookbook to be published in summer 2023.