Tag Archives: Onions

Soup Part Two: Onion

Tuesday 19 January 2010 at the Macrobiotic Cooking Club

Time can turn simple ingredients spectacular. Miso, sourdough bread and onion soup are all examples of this phenomenon. Last week at cooking club we made onion soup, “French” style, by caramelizing the onions long and slow.

Cutting the Onions

There are many fine ways to cut an onion. How you choose to cut your onions should depend on how you’ll cook them. If you want the onions to disappear into the dish, mincing or grating them works well. For crunchy quick-cooked onions, thick slices are ideal.
For onion soup, make thin uniform slices. They’ll caramelize evenly. The onions shouldn’t totally dissolve into the soup, but they shouldn’t hang six inches off the spoon either. For short curves of onion, use the technique I learned from the chef at Rico’s:

1. Cut both ends off the onions, and cut the onions in half vertically. Peel each half.

2. Now slice each half vertically, rather than horizontally, into thin pieces. All of the pieces should wind up the same size, as opposed to when you cut horizontally and the slices on the ends are smaller than the slices in the middle.

Use a sharp knife when you cut onions; the layers will separate maddeningly under a dull blade.

Caramelizing the Onions

Start with a generous pool of oil in a heavy, hot pan. Toss in the onions, stir them up and sprinkle on some salt before you close the lid. Use just a small amount of salt, remembering that the onions shrink a lot and so the salt will concentrate.

Keep the closed pot over high heat, opening it occasionally to stir the onions. They will start to get softer, smaller and more see-through. If you are stirring them often enough, they will gradually turn light gold brown, then darker and darker. At this point, leave the lid off the pot and turn down the heat to a more moderate level. When you stir, the moisture from the onions will at first be enough to clean any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. After a while, the onions will lose enough moisture that you will have to add water or stock as you stir.

This is where the French onion style comes in.
Each time the onions threaten to burn on the bottom of the pan, stir them and add a ladle-full or so of stock (or water) to clean the browning parts off the bottom of the pan. Incorporating this browned onion residue also incorporates the deep, rich and sweet flavor associated with onion soup.

Continue cooking, then stirring and moistening, then cooking, then stirring and moistening, until the onions are very dark brown. They will reduce in volume to perhaps 1/10th of their original volume. The whole caramelizing process may take two hours, for really dark brown rich soup. Be patient.

Once the onions are caramelized, all you have to do is add the rest of the water or stock and let it simmer for a little while to infuse the flavor. The result is dark as beef stock and nearly as ‘meaty’ but sweeter, too.

French Onion Soup
6-8 servings
This is based loosely on a recipe from Mother’s macrobiotic cookbook, “The Macrobiotic Way” by Michio Kushi

10 sweet yellow onions, medium sized
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil, or more to taste
sea salt
1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, more or less to taste
tamari soy sauce
1 bunch scallions (green onions), garnish

1. Peel the onions and slice them into thin, even pieces. Heat a large, heavy soup pot and add 3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and caramelize them according to the instructions detailed above.

2. Meanwhile, remove the stems from the mushrooms and slice them as you wish. Heat the remaining Tablespoon of oil in a separate soup pot and cook the mushrooms, stirring, until they are brown. Add 3 quarts of water, more or less, to the mushrooms. Simmer over low heat, tasting periodically and seasoning with tamari as you caramelize the onions. Use this liquid to deglaze the onion pan, as detailed above.

3. When the onions are fully brown, add all of the mushroom broth (including the pieces of mushrooms) to the onion pot and allow the mixture to simmer at least 1/2 hour. Add more tamari or sea salt as needed. It shouldn’t taste like soy sauce, but the tamari soy sauce lends a unique ‘brown’ flavor that sea salt lacks.

4. Garnish the soup with thin-sliced scallions atop each bowl. Float croutons in the soup if you like. Or, eat it as we did, with fresh crusty sourdough to dip in the broth.

At Meeting Thirteen of the Macrobiotic Cooking Club, we accompanied that onion soup with the following:

Buckwheat Sourdough

Butter and Red Leaf Salad, with
Quick Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes, Blanched Snow Peas and
Orange-Sherry Vinaigrette

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Who Wants Cook’s Temperament?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A possibly chaotic cooking club meeting. Carrie and Tyler showed up. Kim and Barry with the squash. Emily, Miles, Laura, Ryan and Hilary.

One idea of Macrobiotics is cooking (and eating) in harmony with your surroundings. Sometimes the kitchen appears more chaotic than it is. Our food turned out pretty good, if a little chaotic. The mood at the dinner table was equally so. What does one expect with such a high ratio of Beards? We made the following:

Brown Rice with Farro
Farro is an ancient type of wheat (more accurately called Emmer). There was a little bit of organic farro left from my grain splurge at Kalustyan’s in New York City clear last February so I mixed it with the rice. When mixing different types of grains with rice, use about 2-3 parts rice for 1 part other grain. Short grain brown rice is good with all sorts of other whole grains, including barley, wheat berries, rye and wild rice. I use the same ratio of water as for plain rice, but sometimes cook the grains a little longer (especially with wild rice). It helps to soak the rinsed grains in the cooking water for a few hours before cooking them.

1/2 cup farro
1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
pinch salt

Combine the farro and rice in the cooking pot and rinse several times with cold water. My farro was pretty dusty so it took a while. I don’t know how yours is. Drain the grains and add the cooking water. If you have time, leave them to soak for a few hours before cooking.
Place the grain pot over high heat and bring to boiling. Add the salt, cover the pot and reduce heat to lowest possible. Simmer, covered for about an hour without lifting the lid. Off the heat and allow the grain to rest ten minutes, covered before serving.

Roasted Acorn Squash in Rings
Squash addiction suspicions confirmed by Mother’s choice of vegetable.

2-3 medium acorn squashes
olive oil
sea salt

Heat the oven at 400 degrees while you prepare the squash. Slice the squash into rings and scrape out the pulp and seeds. Rub them down with olive oil and oil a baking pan too. Arrange the squash rings in a single layer on the baking pan and sprinkle on some salt. If the salt if course, crunch it up with a mortar and pestle. Roast the squash until soft, flipping them half-way so that they are evenly browned on both sides.

Mushrooms with Onion
When we found out about Mother’s squash, Emily decided to bring mushrooms. Fucking fiends. Apparently cremini mushrooms are the same variety as white button mushrooms and portobello mushrooms; they are between those two in maturity.

3 cups, approximately, fresh cremini mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion
olive oil
salt

Slice the mushrooms and onion. Heat a small skillet on medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil followed directly by the onion. Cook the onion for a few minutes before adding the mushrooms. Add some salt and cook the mushrooms on low heat until they begin to release moisture so that they will not burn. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and browned. Serve with squash, obviously.

Oatmeal Cookies
Should be served for breakfast. Based on Aveline Kushi’s recipe.

1 1/2 cups instant oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons walnut oil
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all of the ingredients to form a sticky dough. Allow the dough to rest for a half hour or more before baking. It will thicken to a good cookie dough texture. Heat the oven at 350 degrees. Oil the cookie tray and spoon out 12-15 cookies in even rows. Bake about 15 minutes. They will just begin to brown but you probably don’t want them too crispy. If they are smaller you may want to check at 10 minutes. Allow them to cool a bit before eating.

The above dishes served with Carrot Greens Condiment that Emily made and Seitan ‘Dumplings’ with Gravy Experiment by Ryan and Hilary, red wine and bancha to drink and for the appetizer Laura brought black radishes with Japanese peppered sea salt.

carrot

Next week: Yellow Split Pea Dahl with Carrots, Celery, Onion and Ginger, and What else?

Saeurkraut’s Ready

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Laura and Kraut

Dividing up the Week-old Sauerkraut

We tasted the fruits of last week’s laborious cabbage-boxing. The sauerkraut did get a few specks of mold on the top, which were easy enough to pick off. The top layers were lighter in color and tasted more salty than those below. The more or less salty sauerkraut was good for topping Whole Grain Crackers with Tofu Spread and snacking on while we cooked. Why would saltier kraut mold more than less salty kraut? Perhaps the ‘friendly bacteria’ (lactobacilli) are even better than salt at preventing spoilage. The four little cabbages we krauted made about 8 pints of dark magenta sauerkraut.

Autumn, Kim and Barry joined Laura, Ryan and Hilary to make the following cabbage accompaniments (all based on recipes from Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking for Health, Harmony and Peace):

Creamy Onion Miso Soup
Ms. Kushi slices her onions to delicate lotus effect and recommends cooking them until they are not yet falling apart. The onions are happily forgiving even if halved and cooked a good long while. The quart of water in this recipe will make enough broth for six small bowls of soup, with onions to spare. Should we increase the water for more broth next time?

7 onions
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 cups water plus 1 cup additional water
3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
3-4 Tablespoons white miso or to taste
1-2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

-trim the ends of the onions, peel and halve them; dice half of one onion and set aside
-slice once vertically not-quite-through each half of onion (this will not produce the elusive lotus blossom onions but will make it easier to fit them on a soup spoon)
-heat half of the sesame oil in a soup pot and saute the diced onion until lightly browned; place the onion halves, cut-side-down on top of the browned onion and add three cups of water. Bring to boiling then reduce heat and simmer until soft or falling apart as you like.
-meanwhile, toast the flour in the remaining oil to brown it; it will smell toasty but be careful not to burn it. Allow to cool slightly before adding the reserved one cup of water and combining until smooth (I used a fork to mix it in a small soup bowl)
-add the flour mixture to the soup pot and keep it simmering to thicken
-soften the miso in a small bowl with some of the soup broth, and add it to the pot just before serving; garnish each bowl with chopped parsley

Whole Grain Crackers
The idea of homemade crackers makes people repeat or exclaim the title of this recipe out loud.

1 cup course bulgur/cracked wheat
water, as needed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
zest of one orange
1 teaspoon salt

-soak the bulgur for an hour or more, adding a little more water if you don’t add enough at first
-mix the flour, sesame seeds, zest and salt with the bulgur and more water as needed to make a spreadable dough
-dust a jelly-roll type pan with cornmeal and overturn the dough bowl to deposit the entire wad of dough onto the pan. Our pan must have been about 9×13” or a little bigger.
-spread the dough into an even layer, dipping your hands into a bowl of water to prevent sticking
-use a butter knife to score the dough and punch holes into each cracker with the tines of a fork
-bake for 20 minutes or so at 450 degrees; check every five minutes after the first ten and bake them until they are browning and they seem crispy, remembering that they will get more crispy as they cool and they are good softish too

Tofu Spread
Sort of the consistency of ricotta. Ms. Kushi calls it ‘Dressing’ but I don’t think so.

2 cakes firm tofu
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons tahini, or to taste
2 Tablespoons grated onion

-boil the tofu for around 5 minutes; it is supposed to float to the surface of the water when it is done but it may or may not
-grind the tofu in batches in the suribachi until it is very smooth. Be patient
-combine all of the ingredients, adding salt to taste. It is fairly salty. Sometimes we have added fresh dill

Boiled Collard Greens with Ginger-Tamari Sauce
We couldn’t find mustard greens but the collards were good this way too. It is a really simple sauce to pour over greens cooked how you like. The thing about greens is, they are just so good. You really don’t have to do much. This large batch served six.

3 bunches collard greens
½ cup tamari
½ cup water
1 -2 teaspoons grated ginger, or more to taste

-remove the stems from the greens; wash and slice the leaves
-cook the greens in a little boiling water until they are bright green and tender
-combine the tamari with the water and ginger and spoon this sauce over each serving of greens

Above dishes served with bancha, red wine and homemade red sauerkraut. We ate the flesh of that sweet orange while we cooked.

first meeting of the macrobiotics cooking club

Meetings will be every Tuesday, 6-9 pm. Cooking macrobiotic recipes from Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking for Health, Harmony and Peace and our heads.

Tuesday, 20 October, 2009
Attended by Laura, Ryan and Hilary, we made:

Inaugural Brown Rice
Without a pressure cooker, soaking the rice for a couple of hours before cooking will make a noticeable difference. Wash the rice and soak it directly in the cooking pot with the measured cooking water.

1 ½ cups organic short grain brown rice
2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce

-rinse the rice in cold water several times and drain; place in small heavy pot (2 quart capacity?) and cover with the measured 2 cups cold water
-place the rice pot uncovered over high heat and bring to boiling; add tamari, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to lowest heat possible. I stack two burners to bring the pot farther from the flame; another option is a flame diffuser or just stick with the basic lowest heat possible
-cook rice 50 minutes to 1 hour without opening the lid (the timing depends on how low you can get the heat—lower heat means the rice can cook longer without scorching on the bottom and the texture is better). After 50 minutes open the lid and fluff rice, recover for 10 minutes off the heat before serving.

Roasted Buttercup Squash

½ a large buttercup squash
canola oil

An unspecific recipe: the oven was about 375 degrees, half a squash cut into 6 wedges and rubbed with a tiny amount of oil. Roasted skin-down on a baking tray until soft. I added some water to the tray near the end of roasting when the squash seemed to be drying out, but the ends of each wedge were still sort of sharp.
Use little enough oil that it is not noticeable when eating; no salt is necessary. They took half an hour or more to soften.

Charred Collard Greens
Ryan’s humble dish which satisfied our greens appetite.

1 bunch collard greens
olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon
sea salt, ¼ teaspoon or more to taste
water

-wash the greens and cut off the stems
-heat olive oil in small skillet and, when hot, add the greens all at once; cover and cook until bottom layer of greens are charred and top layers are wilting and bright green
-stir the greens, add salt and about ¼ cup water and continue stirring over high heat until all of the greens are soft and the water has evaporated (add more water if needed)

Braised Roots with Ginger
Laura chopped the roots and hid the salt.

3 carrots
2 golden beets
2” piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
½ cup apple cider
water
pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce, more to taste
1 ½ teaspoons kuzu

-course chop the beets, chop the carrots into slightly larger pieces than the beets; place into large pot with grated ginger and pour the cider over, adding water to nearly cover the vegetables
-add sea salt to the pot and bring to boiling; cover, reduce heat to lowest possible and simmer until vegetables are just tender (check every 5 minutes after 20); remove lid and add tamari
-grind the kuzu and add cold water to dissolve; pour into the root pot and simmer uncovered until sauce thickens

Basic Miso Soup
From Aveline Kushi’s book; made with 3 year barley miso and addition of tofu

2 small onions, sliced
1 strip wakame, rinsed to soften and chopped
1 quart water
1/3 cup small cubes firm tofu
3-4 Tablespoons barley miso
2 scallions, sliced

-place onions and wakame with water in the soup pot; bring to boil, lower heat and simmer 20-30 minutes to soften onion. Add tofu at the end of cooking.
-add soup liquid to the miso in a small bowl to soften the miso; add softened miso to the soup, warm for a couple of minutes without boiling and off the heat. Garnish each bowl with the scallions. Makes 5-6 small bowls’ soup.

Above dishes served with homemade sauerkraut, roasted tea, lotus blossom green tea.