Vegetarian French Onion Soup: No-beef beauty

What’s great about cold weather besides oh-so-comfy furry winter boots, or your favorite French bar/restaurant with a fireplace and surrounding candlelight? A bowl of satisfying, warming to the soul, undeniably amazing at its core, soup. French onion soup, even without the beef broth, is all you need to warm up on November nights. 

Not sure if you can tell, but I couldn’t wait to make this recipe. From the look of it (rustic, charming peaks of crunchy baguette that playfully hide under melted, oozing gruyere) to the smell of it (that smell of caramelized onions is home cooking at its finest) to the taste of it (so much flavor breaking the “most soups are bland” rule and reclaiming that soup’s superpower is the ability to hold much more flavor than any other savory dish).

I knew this soup would make my kitchen smell amazing. Plus, I wanted to prove to myself that French onion soup is really about the onions and gruyere melding together in harmony to create caramelized, salty umami bliss.

• ¼ cup butter or olive oil (or a mix of the two)
• 2 large Vidalia onions sliced
• ¾ teaspoon of brown sugar (I used orange blossom honey since it was the only sweetener, I had on hand)
• 4 cloves garlic minced
• 1 teaspoon of thyme (fresh or dried)
• ¾ cup red wine 
• 3 tablespoons flour
• 2 quarts mushroom broth
• 2 bay leaves 
• 2 teaspoons sea salt
• Fresh ground pepper 
• 1 baguette, sliced and toasted
• 1 cup of grated Gruyere cheese 

Tip: Make sure you find a nice aged gruyere to top your soup. I used an 18-month-old gruyere cheese from Stinky Brooklyn to compliment mine.

1. In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sugar. Cook onions until soft and caramelized—and smells like Thanksgiving—about 30 minutes. Stir often to avoid sticking or burning the onions. 
2. Add a pinch of salt, the garlic and thyme. Sauté for just a minute. 
3. Add the red wine and turn heat up to bring to a broil and then reduce it to a simmer until the wine evaporates. 
4. Add a pinch of salt, the garlic and thyme. Sauté for just a minute. 
5. Add the red wine and turn heat up to bring to a broil and then reduce it to a simmer until the wine evaporates. 
6. Stir the flour into the onions. Turn down the heat to low. Cook for a minute while constantly stirring so the flour doesn’t burn. 
7. Add the mushroom broth, bay leaves salt and pepper. Boil then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Remove bay leaves. Remove soup from heat.
8. Heat the broiler. Fill soup bowls halfway and place slices of baguette in each oven-safe ramekin.   
9. Add more soup, pour directly over bread carefully. Avoid overfilling the soup bowls.
10. Sprinkle grated gruyere over each baguette slice.
11. Place the soups on a baking sheet and broil for 6-8 minutes, watch the cheese melt to its magical bubbly state of perfection!
12. Serve and enjoy this luscious, bowl of comfort.

Serves 6

Source: The original recipe is derived from Note many substitutions have been made from the original recipe.

Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash

Gluten-free Madeleines—New Flour, Classic Flavor

In my first welcome back blog post this past summer, I announced that I’ll be featuring weekly recipes of French cuisine with a health-conscious twist. “Frealthy” is for home cooks who are ok using substitutions with good-for-you ingre­dients that don’t compromise flavor. First up is this beginner-friendly and sweet tooth approved delight. 

Ah! The scent of fresh madeleines! Nothing says authentic French cuisine like these classic, lemony cookies that transformed my modest kitchen into a boastful French bakery. Many hours after the cookies came out of the oven and cooled, the magical aroma of baked lemon greatness lingered around my oven and spread throughout my apartment—if only we could bottle that sweet perfection.

Madeleine success didn’t come easy. As I’m not a baker, these beauties took me three tries to nail. Originating from Rhian’s Recipes, a health-conscious food blog, this is an easy-to-follow gluten- and sugar-free recipe. But during my first and second attempts, I overlooked a key instruction of the recipe—to mix the ingredients in the same bowl that the coconut oil is melted—which caused two scary fails.

My first try was not sweet enough, while my second batch, too sweet due to my addition of too much Sugarless Sugar (not included in the original recipe). Also, I added too much coconut oil to the batter, so the cookies broke apart at the slightest touch.  

I almost gave up and moved on to other French classics—onion soup, petite crevettes (spicy shrimp in avocado halves), French fondue (I’ll try those later)—but I, eventually, stuck with madeleines as no other French goodie I’ve ever tasted represents French culture, simplicity and elegance as well as a carefully-crafted madeleine. It had to be my first “Frealthy” recipe. 

You may be asking yourself “What’s a cookie without sugar or dairy? Is it inedible? Dry? Bitter? Does it taste like cardboard?” I can safely say that none of the above apply to this airy, delicious and buttery cookie. 

1/8 cup coconut oil (or sub olive or vegetable oil)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any other plant-based milk)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
5 tablespoons maple syrup (or sub any other sweetener)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup almond flour 
2/3 cup gluten free flour blend (or sub plain flour if not gluten-free)
1/4 cup of Sugarless sugar (not part of the original recipe)
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder (ensure gluten-free if necessary)
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit)
2. Place the coconut oil in a large bowl and melt over a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave
3. Once melted, add the milk to the same bowl along with the lemon juice, lemon zest, maple syrup, vanilla, ground almonds, and sugarless sugar
4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
5. Mix well, adding a tiny splash more milk if it’s looking too dry
6. Transfer mixture into a greased madeleine tin
7. Bake in oven for around 15 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean
8. Once out the oven, remove from the tin and transfer onto a wire rack to cool
9. Tastes best when fresh, but keeps for a couple of days

Recipe Source:

Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash