Vegetarian French onion soup

I have been thinking for months that I needed to find a recipe for French onion soup made without beef broth, but the other night when we stopped into this cute French restaurant before our movie (The King’s Speech, loved it) I decided I finally had to do it.

I found this recipe. It sounded good (and easy), and despite my lack of adorable miniature crocks, I decided to make it in regular old soup bowls.

For once in my life I actually followed a recipe to the letter. Well, I substituted some olive oil so I didn’t use all butter, but other than that I really did stick to it.

First you cut a massive amount of onions into strips, and saute them with a bay leaf. The aroma is amazing.

Then you cook them down some more until the onions are nice and soft.

Here’s where the genius part comes in. The secret ingredient is molasses. Not only does it turn the soup that signature brown color, but it brings another layer of sweetness.

I am not wild about bread these days, but I figured if you are going to eat bread you can’t get much better than a locally made artisan baguette.

When I turned over the bread bag I noticed the key ingredient (sour starter), which makes bay area bread so good.

Toast the bread chunks before you add them to your bowl. My formula is 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes, but if you can broil things without burning them, that works too.

Fill your bowls with soup, top with a slice of bread and a slice of cheese (I tried to find gruyere but ended up with provolone), and broil until the cheese gets nice and bubbly. Just make sure your bowls are broiler-safe!

We also had a mixed green salad — I think it’s always a good idea to have some kind of veggie side with dinner to keep you from filling up on main-dish seconds.

Unfortunately I thought this bagged salad from Trader Joe’s tasted like I had pulled up a bunch of weeds from the back yard. Blech. But I am not a huge bagged salad fan. I guess I have learned my lesson!

Anyway, the soup turned out fantastic, and I will definitely make it again. I wasn’t sure you could veganize the real thing, but now I’m a believer.

South Indian black eyed peas

The other day I was flipping through our many public access channels and came across a show about healthy South Indian cooking. I scrambled to write down some recipes, but only got parts of them, so I attempted to recreate this one at home.

I had to reach into the depths of my spice shelf to find some of the ingredients, and I was surprised to find that we actually had them (probably not the freshest, but they worked in a pinch).

I had also never cooked with black eyed peas before, if you can believe it. I guest most beans are pretty much the same, and you could probably substitute whatever beans you had on hand for this.

I thought this turned out really great, and I will definitely make it again. The tomato-y sauce, turned orange by a pinch of turmeric, reminded me of so many Indian dishes I’ve had in restaurants. We poured this over slices of day-old bread, which soaked up the sauce perfectly, but I’m sure it would be great over rice or naan.

South Indian black eyed peas

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cans black eyed peas, drained
1/2 large onion sliced
1 medium tomato sliced into chunks
1/4 fresh mango sliced into chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 whole hot chiles
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black (or yellow) mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt to taste
1 cup tomato sauce

Start by heating a deep skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it’s hot drop in the chiles, mustard seeds and fenugreek. Pretty soon the seeds will start popping like popcorn so watch out!

Next drop in the onions and saute until they’re translucent.

Now you can add your tomato and mango chunks and let them soften and cook down a little.

Turn down the heat to medium and drop in the rest of the spices, the garlic, and the tomato sauce.

Stir all that together, then dump in the black eyed peas.

Cover the pan, and let it simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Remove the chiles before serving.