onion

Winter Veggie Stew

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Apologies for the absence- a couple things have happened in the past month or so, including a wedding (yes, ours) and a honeymoon (also ours!). We are back to cooking and today we are pining for the long, lost seasons! In California everyone raves about the weather, but we miss having actual weather- and four, distinct seasons!

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Because the rest of the country is still sort of experiencing what some might call “winter,” we decided to make a stew with a few seasonal, winter veggies. To be fair, calling this a stew is a bit generous. It’s a fairly thin soup that isn’t chunky. However, it has all of the super comforting and cozy makings of a good stew, so we’re going with it!

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This recipe was inspired by a NYT recipe, you can find that here. I do love the NYT cooking section, however I often find their vagueness disconcerting. They leave much of the decision-making up to the reader, which is fine for experienced cooks who know all of their favorite flavors and combos, but not really useful for your average person who just wants to follow a recipe and get a tasty meal out of it.

We developed our own version that changes up the ratios to make this soup not only heartier and healthier, but also less wasteful. One notable thing we southerners tend to do is try to use every part of the veggies we are cooking with. That’s what we did here. No discarding of vitamin-rich greens, and very little peeling. (It also happens to be less work- yay!)

One caveat for this recipe- you will need a blender or food processor. You will also want some string for your bouquet garni. (Don’t be offput by the fanciful French. It’s just a bunch of yummy herbs for a “broth” base).

Winter Veggie Stew

8 servings (2 cups, 120 calories each!)

Ingredients

for the bouquet garni
3 bay leaves
2 tarragon stalks
4 sage stalks
3 thyme stalks
3 rosemary stalks
2 parsley bunches

4 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 leeks
3 garlic cloves
2 turnips
1 lb russet potatoes [yes, it’s possible you’ll only need one, giant potato for this!]

salt and pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche + more to top [if you want to keep it vegan, skip the crème fraîche!]

optional to top
french bread
parmesan cheese

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Begin by creating your bouquet garni. Wash all the herbs and stack them in a giant pile. I recommend placing the bay leaves in the center to keep them from falling out. Tie them together with string like this:

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Place your bouquet garni in about 6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) of water. You will want the largest pot you have for this!

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Next, prepare your veggies. This is the most time intensive process of the entire meal, and it’s a great opportunity to get your family in the kitchen to help out! You need to: wash, peel, and dice the carrots; wash and dice the celery (please include the leaves, no need to waste them!); wash and clean the leeks, slicing all but the yellow portions on the innermost layers; mince the garlic; clean, peel, and dice the turnips; clean and dice the potatoes (or potato).

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After your veggies are prepped, you’re ready to begin the super easy cooking process!

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Throw all of the veggies into the pot of water along with 4 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper. You’re making about 16 cups of soup, so don’t worry if this sounds like a ton of spice. Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After your soup is done with its initial cooking, carefully remove and discard your bouquet, I recommend even counting the bay leaves to ensure none of them escaped during cooking!

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In batches, blend your soup to a thick, but creamy consistency.

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Place it all back into the pot, and add in 1/4 cup of crème fraîche. If you are vegan, you can skip this part!

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Serve topped with parmesan, additional crème fraîche, or even some french bread!

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Enjoy!

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P.S. You can freeze this soup and it gets even better when you reheat it! Great for meal-preppers, who like to have go-to healthy meals in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy weeknight!

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Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

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Several weeks ago, back in Alabama, I found myself sitting across from my sister at a restaurant dinner table as she savoured every piping hot bite of what looked like a delicious French onion soup. It, of course, contained beef broth, so I was stuck just staring rudely. With each of my sister’s sips, I knew I was destined to make my own, vegetarian version this winter. I did. And it was amazing.

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French onion soup is one of those perfect winter dishes that makes you feel cozy and comforted, and, with the added bread-cheese gratinée, you just can’t go wrong.

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I decided, as usual, to include some choice ingredients. Seeing as I was back in Alabama, thinking about onions, I just had to purchase some Vidalias. This strain of onion comes from a very particular area in Georgia and you basically can’t get them here in California. So about a week ago, unknowingly, Southwest Airlines checked and transported what was probably the first bag full of specially procured onions. [Yes, they arrived safely!]

I love Vidalias, they are SO perfect for an onion soup (especially a vegetarian version). I was able to find petite Vidalias, with the greens still on, so we used those in the topping as well. Of course, for onion soup enthusiasts without access to the South’s produce, a standard, sweet yellow onion will suffice. I did end up supplementing with a few cippolini onions, which I believe are more easily procured from anywhere in the country. (Although for some reason, we haven’t been able to find those in California either, so I had to sneak those back from Alabama as well!)

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Whether it’s with Vidalias or plain yellow onions, this is a thicker-than-average onion soup, as I wanted something substantial. It is a little salty, especially after you add the gratinée, so I put very little actual salt in the soup and used a low-sodium vegetable bouillon.

Enjoy!

Vegetarian Vidalia Onion Soup

Ingredients

for the soup
2 pounds Vidalia, or sweet yellow onions (we used one pound of petite Vidalias, with the greens cut off and one pound cipollini onions)
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ -1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons better than bouillon vegetable base (we used low sodium)
¼- ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 quarts boiling water
2-3 stems rosemary
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup white wine
½ teaspoon black pepper

for gratinée
bread (we used a french bread from Lucky, and it was amazing)
~ 1 tablespoon butter
2 cups grated fontina
1 tablespoon raw onion or chopped onion greens (we sliced the tops of the Vidalias)

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First, slice the onions. You don’t need to chop them, as they will break down. The important thing is to clean off the skins, slice them, and separate the layers.

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Cook the onions with the butter and olive oil in a large pot over low heat for about 15 minutes.

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Add in the salt and sugar. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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While the onions are breaking down in the pot, make your broth in a separate bowl. Combine the porcini, vegetable stock base, and boiling water. Let it rest for 30 minutes. This will create a strong, rich broth, while also rehydrating the mushrooms.

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Continue to stir the onions. They should be browning well and becoming deliciously fragrant!

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Add the mushrooms and broth to the large pot along with the rosemary, flour, wine, and pepper. Simmer for an hour. Go watch your favorite show or even a movie. If it cooks for a bit longer than an hour, it certainly won’t hurt this soup!

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As the soup is finishing its time on the stove, preheat the oven to 325° F. Pour the soup into oven-safe bowls.

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Slice the bread and spread the slices with a bit of butter. Arrange the slices like a delicious lid over your soup bowl.

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Top with a generous amount of grated cheese.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes. Finish the gratinée off with about 2 minutes on broil.

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Enjoy!

 

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Piaju with Dill Raita

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Ramadan is coming to an end soon, but I thought I’d go ahead and post this awesome snack! I know I’m about a month too late, but hey, you can have delicious snacks like this after Ramadan too! From what I’ve read, piaju is a pretty standard snack during this month of fasting. They are excellent because they’re small, but filling. Also, they’re fried and delicious!

I used a basic recipe and then changed it up to make it what I want, so this is by no means a standardized version. Also, when I decided to include a “raita,” I totally made up the recipe, so I can’t promise that it stays true to traditional Indian (or Bangladeshi) cooking. The raita is not vegan, but the piaju are still delicious without it!

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Piaju (also known as dahl pakora) are little fried lentil-onion balls. They function as a snack, but obviously during a time of fasting such as Ramadan they essentially become a meal. The lentils really do fill you up. I will typically have a few piaju and then a small salad as a meal.

This recipe is supposed to make about 20 balls, but the American in me just couldn’t resist supersizing them, so I only got about ten out of it. This was a perfect meal for two people, but they are sharing portions and easy to eat on the go, so you really could serve this up as a party food. It all depends on your circumstances, but the flexibility is great.

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Note: you’ll want a food processor for this recipe.

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Ingredients

for the piaju
3/4 cup dried, red lentils
1/4 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger
3/4 large, yellow onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 serrano pepper
1/2 jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon asafoetida

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for the “raita”
1/4 cup plain, Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced, fresh dill
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

lemon slices for serving

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First, wash the lentils and soak them in a bowl of hot water for thirty minutes.

While the lentils are soaking, peel and grate the ginger (you’ll want an inch or two of fresh ginger to get 1/4 teaspoon). Put the ginger into your food processor.

Next, chop the onion. I’d recommend chopping it pretty finely, let’s call it diced. You don’t want it to be too thick because the frying will not cook this mixture all the way and raw onion can be strong in large bites. Wash and de-stem the cilantro. You’ll want to chop it a little bit, but it doesn’t need much. Clean and mince the peppers. [I always cover my hands in olive oil when I am doing this, it protects your skin from pepper burns.] Combine the onion, cilantro, peppers, and spices into a large bowl.

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After the lentils are done soaking, rinse them and put them in the food processor with the ginger. Puree these together, until you have a slightly coarse/thick paste.

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I had to work slowly, stopping every now and then to push the paste back to the bottom of the food processor.

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Once that is done, scoop the paste into the large bowl and mix with the cilantro and onions. Now you have your “dough”!

Form the dough into little balls (you can make them whatever size you want). Place them in the freezer for about half an hour.

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While the piaju are chilling, make the raita. Place the yogurt in a small bowl. Rinse, de-stem, and mince the dill. Mince the garlic. Add the dill, garlic, and spices into the yogurt and mix thoroughly. If you like your raita to be less thick, you can also add in a little bit of lemon juice.

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After the raita is made, you can begin prepping your oil for frying the piaju. I used a very tiny pot for this, because I hate frying things. I hate the way it makes the apartment smell, and I hate the mess it creates. Using this small pot helped a lot. We used only 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil, and had very little odor or splatter. You want the oil to be fairly hot (throw a crumb in and if it begins frying vigorously, you’re good).

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With the hot oil, you’ll want a slotted spoon for placing the piaju in the pot and getting them out. Also have ready a plate with paper towels for draining. We kept our pakora in the freezer and just took them out one at a time for frying and this worked very well.

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When you fry them, a few bits will come off naturally, but don’t worry too much about this. Just keep the oil hot. When you first place the piaju in the pot, you want to move it so it does not get stuck to the bottom, but then just leave it alone! This is difficult, but give it a minute to brown and finish frying, then take it out of the oil and place it on the plate to drain. Repeat this process with each ball, until they are all fried. If you make more, smaller balls, you can fry more than one at a time.

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Serve fresh with raita and enjoy!

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Thanksgiving Series: The Best Squash Casserole

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This recipe is loosely based off of a dish from Tracy’s cafe in Mountain Brook, Alabama. I absolutely adore this recipe because it has lots of cheese and good variations in texture. However, I did add a few green ingredients to spruce it up, because without them it is very yellow.

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It is a very simple dish, but it makes a ton of food! I cut the original in half and it still made probably 6 or 7 servings! (Okay, maybe I added in more cheese than it calls for…)

Before we get started just a quick note about the consistency of the filling: it will seem very very liquidy and thin, but I promise you that much of this bakes out. If you make the filling too thick to start with, the casserole will end up dry!

 

Squash Casserole

makes about 6 servings

Ingredients

4 medium, yellow squash
3/4 cup (about 1 medium) yellow onion
5 leaves fresh sage
2 tablespoons chives
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon almond milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
plain bread crumbs and parmesan cheese to top

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First, wash and de-stem the squash. Slice them into thin (1/4 inch) rounds.

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Prepare a pot of salted water to boil the squash. While you are waiting for the water to boil, dice the onion, make sure there are no large pieces.

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Chop the chives along with the sage. Mince the garlic.

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Once the water is boiling, cook the squash until they are very tender. This usually takes about 6-8 minutes. A fork should slide through even the thickest pieces very easily.

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While the squash is cooking, combine the onions, sage, chives, and garlic in a large bowl. Add in the butter and cheese.

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After they are tender, drain the squash thoroughly and add them to the bowl. Mix everything together until the butter has been completely melted by the squash.

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Add in the milk and eggs, being careful to continually stir so as not to overcook the eggs. It is fine if they cook just a bit, but they still need to act as a binder for the casserole filling.

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Add in the salt and pepper.

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Pour the filling into your pans and sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs, then parmesan cheese.

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Cook in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the filling is bubbling up.

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Enjoy!

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