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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Poached Tilapia with Beurre Blanc

Tilapia

This recipe is based on Jacques Pépin’s Poached Trout in Vegetable Broth (video here). While there are lots of ingredients and while I list lots of steps it doesn’t take much longer than his presentation. If you don’t make sauce you could easily create this and eat within 20 minutes. Also, I imagine this basic method could make any other type of fish super flavorful and delicate.

The slow, weird, complicated part is the Beurre Blanc, a sauce that has eluded me for some time. I’m not sure if it worked this time because I used Amish butter or if it was due to trial and error… I’m not sure but I do know that even my failed, ultra-melted attempts were still absolutely delicious, so even practice is worthwhile.

This time, the sauce was appropriately creamy, but I didn’t get a good capture because I was too busy eating to care about staging…

Fish
• Tilapia or any fish that wants to be poached
• 1 small white onion, potatoes (as many as you will be serving), a few mushrooms, 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot
• 2 – 3 cups water
• 1 tsp olive oil, butter, or homemade vegetable stock
• 1 large bay leaf
• fresh & dried thyme
• sage
• oregano
• 1/2 – 1 tsp peppercorns
• fine sea salt
• lemon juice and zest
• If serving with roasted vegetables, preheat oven to 425 degrees

1. Squeeze lemon juice onto fish and sprinkle with dried oregano, a dash of sea salt, and pepper.

2. Add enough water to a sauté pan so that the fish will be partially immersed. Boil water, white wine, sliced onion, sliced carrot & celery, small potatoes cut in half or regular potatoes cut into edible pieces, bay leaf, thyme, sage, and a bit of lemon peel. Crush and add peppercorns. Add olive oil or butter if you wish–I went with an ice cube of vegetable stock.

3. Reduce heat to medium, then rest fish upon vegetables and cover pan.

4. Check from time to time: skinned fish will exhibit doneness more obviously than fish with skin. Either way, it should take about 10 minutes.

5. Remove fish from pan and place on a plate with a bowl on top while you make the sauce and roast the potatoes.

6. Remove potatoes from liquid and sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Spread out on baking sheet along with asparagus. Roast while making the beurre blanc, about 20 minutes.

Beurre Blanc
• 1/2 c fish stock
• 1/4 c white wine
• 2 T vinegar (white allows it to be blanc- I used red so it looked more like gravy)
• 1 T minced shallots
• 1/2 c – 1 c butter

1. The liquid from the poached fish will serve as the base for this sauce, so strain out the vegetables. Add about 1/2 c liquid back to the pan.

2. Add white wine and boil until the liquid is reduced by about half.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add vinegar, shallots, and 2 T butter.

4. Reduce heat to low and add butter 1 T at a time, whisking continuously until each is absorbed by the liquid. It is important that the butter is cold and that there is continuous movement with a whisk as it can melt very easily, making for a deflated, watery sauce.

5. Remove from heat completely and add the last few pieces of butter, continuing to stir. The final result should be creamy and heavenly.. Pour liberally over both fish and asparagus.

**Anti-waste tip: Save any remaining fish stock to enhance dinner the next day.. I used it for fish tacos, but it would make a very hearty soup, vegetable cooking liquid – – anything, really. Its also useful to save the vegetables for a small batch of vegetable or fish stock, and/or to season & eat as a simple side dish.**

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.

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.

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.