In spite of my best efforts to plan ahead, whenever I go away I end up frantically using up edible oddments that will not last through my absence. I just get so darn excited about vegetables that I can’t seem to stand having fewer than three meals’ worth around at any given moment.
This time, it was the onions.
Normally, onions keep very well, but in spring they sometimes will go soft or decide to make a last-ditch attempt to flower. Either way, I needed to use up my onions. I also had plenty of garlic—you can never have too much insurance against vampires—and a leek. Clearly it was time to make an onion soup!
This began as a bisque inspired by a recipe from Nourished Kitchen, but soon my Dutch sensibilities about cheese won out and it turned into more of a French onion soup that doesn’t discriminate against other alliums. Or maybe it was garlic soup with onions and leek thrown in? Whatever it was, it was just the ticket for a rainy day.
The only disadvantage is that you have to chop a lot of onions. I’m sure you have heard much advice as to how to chop onions without bawling like crazy. I’ve tried a lot of things—keeping the onions cold, soaking them in water, running the knife under a tap, and, on the advice of one particularly lovely TA, holding my breath—but nothing seems to work. Perhaps I am not rigorous enough in my methods. The experiments shall continue, and in the meantime, I like onions far too much not to soldier through a nightly weeping session.
- olive oil
- 4 medium onions, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large pinches of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 quart good vegetable stock
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- 2 large leeks, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
- 4 small slices of bread
- 1/2 C grated Parmesan
Heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over a medium flame and sauté the onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the thyme and bay leaf, stir, and pour in the vegetable stock and vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat some more olive oil in a sauté pan and add the leeks. Turn the heat to low and cook them slowly until they are carmelized and deeply browned.
Preheat the broiler. Puree the soup and taste for seasoning, then ladle it into four oven-proof bowls. Divide the leeks between the slices of bread, pop a slice into each bowl, quickly top with Parmesan, and slip everything under the broiler. Leave it there just until the cheese is crisped, then pull it out and serve. Careful—it’ll be very hot!