Spring is here and warm weather is coming, too. When you need a warm soup for one of the chilly evenings we have left try a vegetarian version of the classic French onion soup.
This week’s post comes courtesy of my husband, Jeffrey, who has perfected the recipe from making countless pots. I’ll let him explain:
I've made this soup for years. I've always called it "French Onion Soup" and only realized when reviewing the recipe for this post that the Moosewood recipe is simply called "Onion Soup". Well, I'm going to keep calling it "French" for what it's worth! I made this for quite a while pretty much according to the Moosewood recipe, with the main adjustments being that (1) more butter is better (we have the 15th anniversary cookbook from the low-fat 90s); and (2) we like more mustard and no white pepper. Besides the fact that I would never make it without making at least a double if not triple recipe - this soup only gets better with age!
The only thing about making a vegetarian French Onion Soup is that the quintessential ingredient in a traditional recipe is beef broth. I liked this soup very much, making it according to the recipe, but was it lacking something that could give it more depth? At some point in the past couple of decades I came up with an answer: miso! Miso is a "paste made from fermented soybeans and barley or rice malt". Maybe you've had a bowl of traditional miso soup at a sushi restaurant. There are several kinds of miso available in your local Whole Foods or maybe other stores. They may be hiding near the tofu, tempeh and veggie kielbasas in a forgotten corner of the produce department..!? For this recipe I have used both chickpea miso and traditional red miso. I think chickpea miso is my personal favorite, but perhaps the red miso, with its darker complexion, is the richer, more appropriate choice to replace the beef broth in onion soup.
Adding miso to this onion soup is very simple, but it gives the soup a significant flavor kick. The most important thing to note is that you do not want to boil the miso. Whereas the recipe calls for four cups of water, instead add just three cups of the water (or the correct proportional amount if you are making a larger recipe). Reserve the last cup of water in a bowl or liquid measure. Heat the water to boiling if it is not already. Then add 2-3 Tablespoons of miso paste. Stir it well with a spoon, pressing the paste against the side of the bowl to break it up. Add the miso mixture when the rest of the soup is done simmering, and turn the heat down to warm or off. Stir well and then let the soup rest for a few minutes before serving.
As for serving this soup with croutons... well that sounds great but making the homemade croutons seems like maybe more trouble than it's worth. Instead I like to make a batch of cheese toast in the toaster oven while the soup is resting. The diners can choose whether to serve soup over the cheese toast in bowls, dip the toast in the soup, or enjoy them separately. It's good no matter what!
Photo by Zachary Cross
From The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Preparation time: 1 hour (mostly for simmering) Yield: 6 servings
2 Tbs butter
4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dried mustard
A dash or two of thyme
4 cups water
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 to 3 Tbs dry white wine (optional)
A few dashes of white pepper
Thin slices of Swiss cheese
Do you have a package of black cod sitting in your freezer that you’re not sure what to do with? Try a Manhattan-style fish chowder one of these chilly evenings.
Black Cod, or sablefish, sounds exotic to me, and it is not one I’ve seen often in markets or restaurants, but it’s available at our market from Wild Alaskan Salmon. You can cook it like any other white fish. The taste is much better than any other white fish I’ve had, though! It has a high oil content, which is the reason for one of its nicknames: “butterfish.”
My family loved this fish in a fairly simple preparation, but one night I wanted a soup or stew. I first had Manhattan clam chowder as a kid and preferred it to New England style for years. I decided to try a Manhattan-style fish chowder.
The fish had plenty of flavor but did not overwhelm the other ingredients, either.
As is often true with my recipes, you can adjust the ingredients you use to your taste and what you have on hand. For instance, salmon would work in this recipe as well, though it will have a different flavor and texture. Also, you can use other vegetables, such as white or sweet potatoes, or different greens.
I used a vegetable stock in my chowder, but I wished I had taken a few minutes to make a fish stock from the fish bones in my freezer. I looked online for a fish stock recipe but was not happy with any I found. Mainly, they were all too complicated. A quick fish stock can be simply made by sautéing some vegetable scraps in your preferred fat, then adding fish scraps and water to cover. Here’s a recipe for a large quantity of fish broth. All you need for your chowder is a couple of cups, and you can make that from the few bones you might find in your fish, and perhaps the skin, if you prefer not to have it in your chowder.
This time of year, of course, tomatoes are not available. You can use whatever tomato product you have on hand. Add water to the thicker ones (such as paste), or use the thinner ones (such as juice) in place of some of the stock. Or use nomato sauce.
However you make it, enjoy!
Photo by Zachary Cross
Manhattan Style Fish Chowder
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 cups of stock
2 cups no-mato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato juice, or tomato sauce
1 cup white wine
Several handfuls of baby spinach
½ - 1 lb black cod, cut into bite-sized pieces
Herbs or microgreens for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste