French Onion Soup

onion soup

The time to make onion soup is best dictated by one’s pantry. As the only ‘fresh’ ingredients are cheese and onion, the biggest variable is bread. Rather than making a free choice in favor of soup, I let a stale leftover baguette decide- throw it out, make croutons, or make French onion soup.

I don’t actually measure anything in this recipe…The quantity of each ingredient can and should be regulated according to taste, with the amount of onion vs liquid the most important consideration. The onions will also cook down so you should add more than you think is necessary. Listed quantities come from Julia Child’s recipe, with the flour omitted.

•  5 cups sliced yellow onion
•  at least 3T butter (as much as you’d like)
•  1 tsp sugar
•  1/2 c dry white wine
•  2 quarts beef or vegetable stock
•  1 tsp salt and pepper
•  half a baguette
•  1 c Swiss or Gruyère + muenster cheese

1. Coat cast iron skillet with 1T butter. Add onions and mix around to coat onion in butter. Cover, and allow to cook untouched 15 minutes over medium heat. Check every 15-20 minutes for an hour or more, depending on heat settings. Midway through cooking, fully turn all onions, then sprinkle with sugar and add 2 T butter. Allow to continue to brown, without stirring them. Onions do not want to be your friend, and do not need to dance all the time-best to leave them alone as much as possible. Some crust on the pan (and onions!) is good, but not necessary.

2. In separate pot, heat beef (or vegetable) stock with a touch of dry white wine (you can use red wine instead-its just important that its dry else the fruitiness can be a bit obvious) and pepper.

3. With onions still cooking, deglaze pan with white wine straight from the bottle. Add stock, some pepper, then adjust to taste. The biggest caution here is to watch your wine-since I just pour some from the bottle I’ve found its very easy to end up with onions in wine-flavored water… If that happens, just allow to reduce much longer.s

4. Slice bread and toast under broiler. I use 1 or 2 for each ramekin, but more layers makes for a kind of bread pudding that is exceptionally delicious, so toast however much you like.

5. Ladle soup into ramekins. Cover with one or two slices of toast, darker side down. To layer, allow each slice to soak up liquid before placing another. Sprinkle swiss/gruyere on top, and cover with a slice of muenster cheese. Muenster melts quickly and evenly, making for an awesome gooey surface, and doesn’t have a strong flavor that will overpower your chosen cheese. If you just want to use one cheese for your soup, it should be muenster.

6. Serve with extra piece of bread. Extra ramekins can be saved for a few days, and make a fantastic breakfast.

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Vegetarian Meatballs

meataball

These are incredibly satisfying, and, despite the lengthy list of steps, are pretty easy to prepare. The process is comparable to regular meatballs, just with more veggie cutting and less gross meat smell.

The recipe is adapted from the NYT, which specifies half hour waiting periods between stages, allowing the ingredients to cool. I adhered to this the first time, but was more casual about it the second, waiting for everything to cool rather than waiting for a full half hour. Cooking the veggies and lentils at the same time saves a lot of time, as they can cool next to one another, which is better than staggering cool times.  The final cooling step, where you put the entire mix into the fridge, might not be necessary either, but is useful as it allows time to review the recipe and clean up a but before they’re rolled.

« 400 ° // 30 – 45m per pan »

•  1 1/2  c  lentils
•  1/4 c olive oil
•  1 large onion
•  2 carrots
•  2 celery stalks
•  1 garlic clove
•  1 T thyme leaves
•  2 tsp salt
•  3 T tomato paste
•  8 oz mushrooms
•  3 eggs
•  1/2 c Parmesan cheese
•  1/2 c bread crumbs
•  1/3 c parsley
•  1/4 c mixture of basil & oregano

1.  Cook lentils: Combine with a little under 2qt water in stockpot and boil. Reduce to low and simmer 25m. When lentils are soft, drain and allow to cool.

2.  Dice onion, carrots, celery, and chop mushrooms. They will reduce in size slightly while cooking, but they will not be mashed up, and so will retain their basic size & shape of your cut. Mushrooms are most impacted by heat and so can be a bit bigger. Mince garlic.

3.  Cook vegetables: Add 1/4 c olive oil to pan and sauté onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt. Stir frequently until veggies begin to brown.

4. Add tomato paste and continue to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

5. Add mushrooms and stir frequently for 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

7. When cool, add lentils to vegetable mix. Then add eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, and spices. Mix until everything seems uniformly combined. I used a wooden spoon, but feel free to use your hand and smoosh as you go.

8. Refrigerate mixture for a half hour. Preheat oven 400 degrees.

9. Coat heavy pan with thin layer of olive or vegetable oil.

10. Roll mixture into meatballs or make patties for veggie burgers. The mixture is pretty soft and delicate, and can’t really be mushed tightly like a regular meatball. If you feel they are too loose, it is possible to add more bread crumbs without impacting flavor. Either way, they will stay solid after they are fully cooked, and become even more stable when cooled.

11. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, flipping at least once. You’ll want to use a spatula or tongs for the first flip, then just jostle them until they’re nice and golden brown.

12. Serve whole with pasta, break up for lasagna, meat sauce, or ravioli, or freeze for later use.

Leek & Bean Cassoulet

cassoulet

Cassoulet is a meat-intensive French bean dish, a stew of remainders. This adaptation from Veganomicon by Moskowitz & Romero has the spirit and comfort of chicken pot pie. (They also include a seitan pot pie recipe that looks very good)

Most of the time invested in this recipe is dedicated to prep, so it may help to dice and cube and mince everything beforehand. Its probably possible to prepare the vegetable mixture in advance, because the finished casserole keeps fantastically for days.

• 2 potatoes
• 2 leeks
• 1 1/2c carrots
• 3/4c frozen peas
• 1 small onion
• 1 [15oz] navy or white beans, drained & rinsed
• 1 T fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
• black pepper, 1/2tsp salt
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 2T olive oil
• 3c vegetable stock
• 3T cornstarch

Biscuits:
• 3/4c plain soy milk
• 1tsp apple cider vinegar
• 1 1/2c flour
• 2tsp baking powder
• 1/4tsp salt
• 1/4c (vegan) shortening

1. Boil potatoes for 10 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from water and allow to cool.
2. Slice the leeks into thin disks and dice the onions and carrots. Over medium heat, sauté together until soft and just beginning to brown (about 10 minutes).
3. At this point, start mixing the biscuits. First, add vinegar to the soy milk and set aside to curdle. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add garlic, thyme, s&p to the cooking vegetables. Cut potatoes into cubes and add along with frozen peas. Add cornstarch to vegetable stock and pour over all vegetables. Raise heat slightly and allow to simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add shortening to the biscuit flour mixture. Combine with fork so there are large clumps. Add soy milk and mix until it is moistened. ‘Knead’ with fork until dough holds together nicely and isn’t extremely sticky. (More flour can be added if necessary)
6. The vegetable mixture should be slightly thickened. Add to casserole dish(es), leaving an inch or so to accomodate for biscuits. Gently roll and flatten into biscuits or fun shapes and place over mixture.
7. Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes in order to slightly brown biscuits. Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

Raspberry Clafouti

This is from Eric Ripert’s Get Toasted podcast, a quick recipe tailored for your toaster oven. I don’t have a toaster oven, but the recipes are perfect for one or two people, and can all be made quicky in a regular oven. His recipes included in this series are all really elegant, and his show Avec Eric was instrumental in inspiring me to learn more about cooking.

Clafouti

• 1T room temperature butter
• 1/4c sugar, with extra for the dish
• 1 egg
•  3T flour
• 6T (almond) milk
• 1tsp vanilla extract
•  Raspberries

1. Whisk egg, then add sugar, milk, and vanilla.
2. Add flour and mix until combined so as to not overwork.
3. Butter small casserole or gratin dishes (I made 3) with a brush. Coat with sugar, shaking bowl around for full coverage.
4. Place raspberries flat-side down in dishes and slowly pour mixture between, allowing them to poke out a bit.
5. Broil until the mixture is solid, which will take 8-10 minutes on high, or 15-20 on low.

Video of Eric making this recipe here

Quick Vegetarian Chili

chili

• 1 onion
• 2 – 3 tomatoes depending on size
• 1 green or red bell pepper
• 2 chili peppers (more/less)
• 1 zucchini
• 1 can black beans
• 2-3c vegetable stock
• dash of salt & pepper
• about 1TB/roughly equal amounts: oregano, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon or cocoa, and old bay seasoning

1. Heat onion and pepper first, then zucchini and other substantive vegetables
2. Turn heat to medium/low and add tomatoes, beans, stock, and spices.
3. Ready when peppers are as soft as you feel is appropriate.

Garnish with avocado and cilantro, serve with tortilla chips.

This can have whatever quantity of whatever foods you wish. It can be a personal recipe, producing enough for you and your freezer or easily expands to feed a group.

Zucchini Carpaccio

zucchini

• All the zucchini
• salt & pepper
• olive oil
• balsamic vinegar
• pecorino, romano, &/or parmesan cheese

1. Peel and slice (as thin as possible) zucchini. Season on both sides with s&p. Drizzle with olive oil.
2. Broil 8 minutes. Remove carefully, arrange in a pretty fan. Drizzle remaining oil from pan, balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with pecorino/parmesan cheese and fresh parsley (we don’t have that in our garden but it was tasty without :) ).

This is from the inspiring Eric Ripert, from his series Avec Eric (which I love endlessly). Here he demonstrates how to make this in a toaster oven: http://bit.ly/1eCXplO

Vegetable Stock

stock

• roughly 1-2 gallons water
• 5 or 6 carrots
• 3 or 4 sliced onions
• 2c sliced or quartered mushrooms
• 2 leeks
• 1c celery leaves
• 1 tomato
• 1-2t thyme, garlic powder, pepper, salt, coriander, sage, and/or your preferred spices

Add all ingredients to stockpot, heat for an hour or two on low/simmer. Strain and use right away for some soup, refrigerating some for use within a week or two. Freeze the rest as ice cubes.

Optional step to concentrate flavor: roast the hearty (carrot, onion, mushroom) veggies or heat/sweat before adding water.

Minimize waste by using the remaining veggies for a soup/dish that day, or make another round of less potent stock.

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

• 4-6 tomatoes
• a carrot,  a handful of mushrooms, slice of yellow onion
• 1 cup vegetable stock
• 1T olive oil, 2T butter
• 1/4c (unsweetened almond) milk
• lots of black pepper and thyme
• a couple pinches salt, garlic powder, and basil

1. Remove core from tomatoes, heat in large pot, mashing occasionally
2. Purée carrot, mushrooms, and onion with vegetable stock, olive oil, milk, and butter*
3. Add to pot, mix and continue to heat. Add a very generous amount of black pepper and thyme (seriously, lots of both) along with garlic powder, salt, and a touch of basil
4. Pour into blender/processor and purée entire mixture. Return to pot and continue to heat, seasoning as needed. Serve with grilled cheese :)

*I didn’t plan to add butter, but even with spices my soup tasted like raw tomatoes. Butter made it taste more like conventional soup.

Custard Filling & Fruit Tarts

Tartsfig

Custard Filling
•2c (vanilla almond) milk
•2 beaten eggs
•2/3c sugar
•1/2c flour
•pinch salt
•1t vanilla
•1TB butter

1. Warm milk on medium heat
2. In separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add eggs and combine, beating well
3. Add slowly to milk, stirring with whisk.
4. If needed, add more flour- I added an extra half cup. You can also add flavors like extracts, cocoa, or citrus zest
5. Stir, cool, eat some, then fill desserts

Above tarts were made with boxed pie crust and custard leftover from cream puffs.

  • The fruit tarts have a raspberry jam glaze as I was out of apricot (just microwave for a few seconds then paint on).
  • Fig tarts: top custard with roasted figs, which are sliced in half, coated with a thin layer of brown sugar and rosemary leaves, then baked at 400/450 degrees until the sugar has caramelized.
  • Mini Apple Pies: mix diced apple, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, then paint with milk and sprinkled with sugar.

Zucchini & Tomato Tart

zucchini tomato tart

• 2 tomatoes
• 2 zucchini
• 1/3 onion
• handful each: mushrooms, spinach
• 2 eggs
• 1/3c (almond) milk
• handful cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella)
• fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and garlic
• herbes de Provence, s&p, olive oil

1. Roast sliced zucchini at 450. Flip once, browning slightly on both sides.
2. In casserole dish, layer chopped onion, zucchini, spinach, mushroom, and tomato. Pour over half mixture of beaten egg, milk, s&p. Add herbs and cheese (in this case, parm & mozz but goat or gruyere would be awesome).
3. Continue layering, finishing with egg mixture then full zucchini layer. Cover with sliced tomato, sprigs of thyme, & olive oil. Bake at 350 for 45m (or more, if needed).

(*inspired by this eggplant tart, which includes crust http://nyti.ms/18DwDUF)

Smoked Salmon

smoked salmon

These brunch sandwiches are made by toasting an English muffin, then layering cream cheese, smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon, ground pepper, greens/spinach, tomato, egg, and avocado.

I ended up removing the unnecessary avocado when eating,  as it’s much more tasty as a simpler assemblage. The tomato and pepper are essential for making it feel like a proper sandwich, though.

Poached eggs are ideal, but I’ve yet to master poaching!

Serve with cantaloupe, kiwi, and extra spinach (w/a sprinkle of Parmesan. The unused avocado can be mashed with herbs and citrus for a fresh dressing).

Bread

Bread

Basic Bread
• 4c flour
• 1 1/2c water
• 2tsp salt
• 1tsp instant yeast

1. Sprinkle yeast over surface of warm water. Pour over flour and salt. Mix, then knead until dough is smooth & elastic.
2. Continue kneading until it can be stretched without breaking. If you are making a flavored bread, you would add spices (garlic, rosemary, thyme, etc) or ingredients (olives, walnuts, etc) at this point.
3. Place in bowl covered with plastic wrap until it expands to twice its size (4-8h). It is ready when it won’t immediately spring back if you poke it.
4. Knead dough for a moment, then cover with towel and allow to rest 10-15m.
5. Shape dough and cover again with towel. Allow to rise/proof for an hour (or refrigerate overnight then allow to rise at room temperature for an hour and a half– I had to do this and it’s still delicious)
6. Preheat oven 450 degrees, then bake for 10 minutes before reducing temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 40-50m. If baking on a pan instead of within a Dutch oven, include a ramekin with 1c water in the oven for steaming, which produces a hard crust.

The above recipe is from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, which includes a lot of variations for different flavors. The core ratio is 5 parts flour : 3 parts water + yeast & salt. It’s basically the same as the no-knead bread posted below, but the kneading makes you feel like you are a professional Boulanger :)

No Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

• 4c flour
• 2c warm water
• 1 1/2t salt
• 1/4t yeast

1. In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add yeast and warm water. Mix.
2. Cover with foil and let sit for 18 hours
3. Shape dough (it’s quite sticky/difficult to work with so nothing too exciting)
4. Cover with towel and let sit for 2 hours 5. Bake at 425 for 35-45 minutes.

This multigrain boule above was made in an uncovered ceramic dish (w/a small ramekin of water to steam). It was really difficult to remove, so I prefer the ciabatta recipe from Food Wishes (http://bit.ly/YhsYYT) to the messier NYT recipe (http://nyti.ms/SuMYHv).  It is slightly easier to remove if you use a covered dish rather than an open one, but I usually have to cut it out rather than taking out a pretty loaf.  Ciabatta, where you pour dough onto a pan coated with cornmeal, is much easier, pretty, and has a more satisfying rustic feel.

Pesto Risotto

risotto

• 4c stock 1 1/2c rice
• 1c white wine
• 1 yellow onion
• 1T olive oil handful mushrooms
• 2T pesto
• 1T butter
• 1/2tsp pepper, a bit of salt

1. Heat vegetable stock (homemade or water + bouillon or water + celery, carrot, onion, garlic, s&p) on low. Over medium heat, add diced onion with oil to cast iron skillet. After 5 min, add rice (I used wild) then wine.
2. When wine is mostly absorbed, start adding some stock. I poured at 10 minute intervals, and added chopped mushrooms, salt, and pepper about halfway through.
3. Leave on medium heat and cover. If you use cast iron you don’t have to stir that often, but anything else will have to be monitored. All in all, it will take about a half hour for the rice to be al dente/edible.
4. When it’s almost done, add pesto along with butter. Allow flavors to coalesce a bit, then serve with roasted tomato.

The creamy texture of risotto comes from the starch produced by immersing rice in water. As it slowly cooks, the starch is pulled into the water, which eventually thickens to a delicious consistency. This is enhanced by herbs, and can be further embellished with liquid stuff, like pesto, butter, milk products, or even soup.

Recently, I made mushroom soup and used the leftover to make a quick risotto with prepared rice. If standing over an oven maintaining a risotto is not your scene, you can easily make a delicious dish using the soup + cooked rice method. You can use microwave rice, or just make a plain batch in a rice cooker every week or few days, keeping it in the fridge for different dishes.

Simple Pesto

basil pesto

•6 loosely packed cups fresh basil (daddy long legs from garden that decides to creep around while you’re cutting the garlic not included)
•2-3 cloves garlic
•around 1/3c olive oil
•1/2c pine nuts
•1/3-1/2c Parmesan and Romano cheese (or pecorino if you’re not cheap like me!)

Blend! Makes a little under a jar of pesto (depends how much olive oil is used) which is supposed to last about a week. I served it on multigrain toast with roasted red pepper, spinach, cheese, and mushrooms. Also excellent as a cream sauce base.