chop all the veggies and garlic and sauté in olive oil in a medium soup pot until just starting to caramelize.
add water, broth cubes, and barley and bring to a boil.
add the herbs, liquid smoke, wine (if using) and "beef" pieces. simmer on med for about 25 min, until barley is swelled and softened. if you think it's too watery you can add 2-3 Tbs of corn starch, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water and cook until thickened.
adjust salt and pepper, serve topped with a handful of croûtons or the slice of stale or toasted bread, and sliced or shredded cheese. broil briefly if your bowls will take it or microwave just long enough to melt the cheese if they wont. serve with salad and the rest of the red wine.