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French Onion Pasta



This is the time of year when we not only practice carbo-loading and stretchy pants, but we yearn for heart warming stories. I have a great story to share with you. My friend Kathi has a very serious illness. To call Kathi a high energy person is like saying Mauna Loa is a backyard barbecue. She has a family, a busy veterinary practice, manages a barn and riding school and runs a free summer camp for kids who love horses and can't afford to ride. This little barn, which has hung on as the community around it continues to urbanize, has a hands-on riding program that has taught hundreds of local children how to care for animals and about the responsibility and discipline of horsemanship. Kathi has no time for getting sick.


Her many friends and colleagues have been eager to find ways to help her or offer their support. While she is in the hands of a great oncology team, one friend offered to introduce her to Brother Paul, a Franciscan who also runs a large soup kitchen and shelter in Newark and is also a faith healer who has helped many people. It can't hurt, she thought, and went to New Jersey to meet Brother Paul and get his blessing.


Kathi was amazed to see what Brother Paul has done for the people of Newark. The soup kitchen prepares 100,000 meals every year. When she learned that the mission was in the midst of a holiday toy and coat drive, Kathi, being Kathi, decided she was going to return with a donation for the shelter. No sooner did she tell her friends and colleagues than people started sending her contributions. What a better way to stay positive through an illness than undertake a project like this, and then to put the word out to concerned friends and colleagues who are looking for ways to express their love and show her support!


She is heading back to New Jersey next week with a truck filled with all kinds of personal care items, diapers, toys, hats, and gloves. And needless to say, Kathi has been kicking cancer's ass. I like to think Brother Paul may have played a small part in that.


If you would like to donate to Brother Paul, you can do so here.


When I was growing up, my father loved French Onion Soup, and my mom would make it on winter weekends. While I also liked the taste of the onions and cheese, I did not care for it in a soup- the liquid was always too salty, and, in order to melt the cheese, it was always too hot. I have been looking for the flavors of French onion soup without the soup. Smitten Kitchen has an excellent savory bread pudding recipe that I have made before and highly recommend. But this week I found a vegan pasta recipe on a fantastic site worth exploring called The Wandering Chickpea that knocked it out of the park. This combines all the great flavors of French Onion Soup, but is also a hearty pasta dish in which the carmelized onions create a rich creamy texture-- and did I mention it's vegan? And it has so few ingredients it is the ultimate cuisine de placard.


Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour

  • 2 cups vegetable broth (I used a little less)

  • 2 cups water

  • 12 oz dried orecchiette or other short cut pasta

  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1-2 tbsps finely chopped parsley


Instructions:

Heat oil over a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions. Add about a teaspoon or so of salt to the cooking onions.


Carmelizing onions - always majestic to behold


Cook, stirring from time to time, until deeply caramelized. About 30 minutes.

Add the garlic, mushrooms and thyme. Sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to soften.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan, and add the flour. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until thickened.

Pour in the vegetable stock and water.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bring to a boil then add the pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes until just cooked through (al dente).

Turn off the heat and stir in the sherry vinegar.

Spoon into bowls and add some parsley.


You can skip the parsley if you don't have any, but don't skip the sherry vinegar, which adds a dash of brightness to a rich pasta dish. If you don't have sherry vinegar you can try wine vinegar.





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