Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter warmers

Freshly returned from tonight's monthly ANC meeting, covered in a downy layer of snow, I shuffled into my kitchen with cold toes, wet sneakers, and a hungry belly. (What's that? Yes, snow! The first of the season! There was about an inch that had accumulated on the front steps over the hour and a half I was out.) I rummaged through my somewhat bare refrigerator and pantry to see what I might add to the delicious vegetable stock simmering on the stove. I hadn't eaten in a solid 3 hours and I had soup on the brain.

Okay, fine, mostly soup. While I was scavenging for ingredients in my snow-chilled state I may have heated up a little of the ponche left over from this weekend's apartment warming party -- Patricia's Mexican holiday punch was even more delicious rewarmed with a shot of brandy. And all of the fruit in there can only boost my immune system in preparation for tomorrow's temperatures in the single digits. (No, this is not the exact spiel I give to 3rd graders about eating more foods rich in antioxidants.)

Anyway, soup. While the cupboard was not completely bare, I found myself with a motley assortment of odds and ends. A couple of onions. Some stale bread. Cheese ends. A few fingers of marsala wine. A head of garlic. It was beginning to look like I had the makings for a vegetarian french onion soup. I poked around online as I sauteed some onions (and finished up the ponche) and came across this recipe. Here is an adapted version, which, incidentally, is as hearty as it is tasty and budget friendly.

Faux French Onion Soup

  • 8-10 cups of vegetable broth (make your own by simmering 10 cups of water + a bay leaf, some carrot and onion scraps, mushroom stalks, salt/pepper – strain to remove veggie solids before using)
  • a hearty handful of cheese rinds
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • a good splash of marsala wine (sherry would work, too)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a few handfuls of 1-inch chunks of stale bread
  • a small block of Gruyere cheese, grated


Warm broth with cheese rinds in a large pot. Keep at a simmer as you get the rest of the recipe together.

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a medium pot.

Add the onions to the pan, coat with the olive oil-butter mixture, and cook, stirring often, until the onions become translucent (about 10 minutes).

Add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions and garlic begin to show some color (about 5 minutes).

When the onions are soft and show a good amount of brown, deglaze the pan with the marsala, scraping the browned bits from the pan’s bottom. Cook until the liquid is almost all evaporated from the pan.

Add (strained) vegetable broth, vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For each serving, drop a handful of bread cubes into an empty soup bowl. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the bread. Ladle the soup over the bread and cheese in each bowl. Devour.

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