Chalk this soup up to the power of suggestion. Brette tells us all how to make tomato soup without a recipe, and I have to have tomato soup. I always have bags of cherry tomatoes from our garden in the freezer to get us through the winter months, but one can only make so many cherry tomato cobblers, so this soup is the perfect way to put them to good use. Of course other tomatoes work too. —Lindsay-Jean Hard
Put the dried shiitake mushrooms and the bouillon cubes in a 2 C glass measuring cup, pour boiling water in the cup up to the 2 C mark, break up the bouillon cube with a spoon, stir well, and set aside for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a big pot sauté the onion and celery in the olive oil with a pinch of salt, until the onion is translucent.
Scoop out the shiitake mushrooms from the broth mixture, finely mince them, and set aside.
Add the garlic to the pot, sauté for a minute or so, until fragrant.
Add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, and about 1 C of the broth mixture. (This is where the glass measuring cup comes into play. Pour slowly to make sure the sediment from the mushrooms stays in the bottom of the cup.)
Simmer the tomatoes until they lose all sense of dignity. Add salt to taste. Blend with an immersion blender. If you're opposed to tomato skin, now's the time to strain the soup. With the other textures in this soup, I don't mind them. (And I like the little shards of color they bring to the soup.)
Stir in the pearl barley and chopped mushrooms. If you'd like your soup thinner, add a bit more of the remaining broth. (I like to save it to thin the soup back out on day 2.)
Add lemon zest and juice. Serve. (With a small swirl of sour cream if desired.)
*Thanks to Heidi Swanson, I'm very partial to Rapunzel bouillon cubes. Of course it works to use homemade stock of any variety, just heat it up first. If you're using a different type of bouillon or stock in a box, consider using 1/2 of a bouillon cube or cutting your stock with water, as Rapunzel has a fairly delicate flavor.
** The lemon is key to bringing the soup together, but varies a lot depending on your lemons. The first time I made this I was happy with one teaspoon of each, but the next batch called for much more.