By JAN MAIN
After the festivities are over, we are faced with cold, bleak January. With three months before the first vestiges of spring, it’s time to savour steaming bowls – soups and stews- warming comfort food of all sorts, that revitalize and give us stamina.
These foods help us endure the remaining winter after the season’s frivolity when we suffer reduced finances and expanded waistlines. There is nothing like a menu from an upscale restaurant to remind us that we can prepare a satisfying steaming bowl to satisfy both our hunger and emotional needs at a fraction of the price.
Our own local foods, carrots, onions and potatoes, bursting with vitamins, minerals and fiber, are what we need to meet financial and dietary challenges. Welcome winter 2020!
Old Fashioned French Onion Soup
There was a time when French onion soup was all the rage and a frequent item on sophisticated menus. Although you see it less frequently, it is a classic.
I was reminded of its excellence recently on a bitter winter day. I was cold and hungry. The onion soup arrived rich in flavour and steaming. It was perfect!
Now it’s a regular item at home, especially popular with my guests.
Feel free to use a variety of onions: cooking, red, Vidalia or leeks. It is also a great way of using up stale bread and crusts not to mention bits and pieces of cheese. Although Swiss cheese is the traditional cheese used, old cheddar and mozzarella could be substituted.
2 tbsp (25 mL) each, butter and olive oil
5 cups (1.25 L) onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 6-7 onions)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp (5 mL) each, salt and granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) white or red wine
6 cups (1 1/2 L) beef stock (use liquid beef stock not cubes)
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
More salt if necessary
Stale, dry bread pieces about 1/2 inch (1 cm thick) preferably French
3 cups (375mL) approximate shredded Swiss, old cheddar or mozzarella cheese or mixture of cheese
In large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium-high. Add onions and garlic; cook covered about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle with salt and sugar. Cook another 25-30 minutes or until onions are a deep, golden brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Stir in flour.
Cook several minutes. Gradually stir in wine and beef stock stirring frequently. Cook covered another 25-30 minutes.
Ladle into oven proof serving dishes. Top with dried bread and sprinkle generously with cheese. Place on baking sheet in preheated 425 F (225 C) oven and heat until cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Carrot and Ginger Soup
A fast, easy soup, it is always popular. You could also substitute sweet potato or butternut squash.
For super speed, butternut squash is available peeled, chopped and frozen in the freezer section of supermarkets.
Also, ginger is now available peeled and pureed ready to use, speedy but more expensive. If you prefer, 1 tsp (5 mL) curry powder could be substituted for ginger.
6 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 L)
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 L chicken stock (preferably liquid in tetra-pak)
2 tbsp (25 mL) peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger root. For a milder taste, substitute 1 tbsp (15 mL)
1 can (385 mL) evaporated milk
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
In large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stir together carrots, onion, celery, potato (if using), bay leaf, chicken stock and ginger root.
Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook covered until vegetables are very tender, about 35 – 40 minutes.
Discard bay leaf. Ladle into blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add evaporated milk, salt and pepper. Combine. Taste. Adjust seasoning.
Serve piping hot or cool and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Freeze for longer storage. Makes 6 – 8 servings.