(Vegetarian) French Onion Soup

Caramelized onions, crusty bread, and melty cheese...what's not to love about French onion soup? If you are a vegetarian, perhaps the strong beef broth that serves as a base of this popular soup. But with the rain pouring down outside and oodles of onions from last week's CSA delivery filling my produce bowl inside, I was determined to make a vegetarian version of French onion soup that could pass muster. This one is lighter in color and sweeter than what you'd get with the traditional recipe, but my fiancee pronounced it delicious - just the thing for a rainy, stormy night. We actually made this one night (through step 3), froze about 2/3 of it, and refrigerated the rest to heat and serve for dinner the following day.

French Onion Soup (~6-8 servings)
1 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
4 large onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 T. flour
1 c. white wine
4 c. vegetable broth
1 c. apple cider
1 c. water
6-8 slices French bread, toasted
grated Gruyere cheese, to taste

1. In a large stock pots, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat until melted. Add the onions and cook about 10 minutes, until soft and just starting to go from translucent to brown.

2. Add the garlic, sugar, and thyme. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until onions are brown - about 30-35 minutes.

3. Stir in the flour, wine, broth, cider, and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes.

4. If you are brave and have oven-proof bowls, heat the broiler. Fill each bowl about 3/4 with soup, then add a piece of toast and top with grated cheese. Broil about 3-4 minutes. If you are less brave or don't have oven-proof bowls, float the bread, top with cheese, and microwave for 30-60 seconds, or until cheese is melted.


Acorn Squash Pasta Bake (also good for butternut squash)

I have been a very bad blogger, and have left this site for over a year (yikes!). However, my culinary adventures have continued...and today, I bring you acorn squash pasta bake!

This delicious autumn dish was born of necessity - our CSA gives us lots of squash, and so we've been very creative in finding ways to use it - in squash soup and baked squash  and spaghetti form. But I had committed as the host of a potluck dinner, and wanted to find something really great to make with some of the squash that we'd roasted, scooped, and frozen a few weeks ago. And thus the acorn squash pasta bake was born...(sorry there are no pictures - we ate it too quickly!)

Acorn Squash Pasta Bake (~ 8 servings)
1 lb. pasta of choice (I used mini penne; ziti, penne, shells, elbows, rotini, etc. would all work)
2 cups acorn or butternut squash, already roasted or boiled and mashed*
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 clove garlic, or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 T. olive oil
1 egg
freshly grated black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
1 bunch spinach or chard, chopped (about 1/2 pound, give or take depending on your taste)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter or spray a 9x13 baking dish.

2. Boil the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain.

3. While the pasta is cooking, puree the squash, ricotta, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, olive oil, egg, pepper, and salt in a blender or food processor to make a smooth sauce.

4. Stir together pasta, squash sauce, and chopped spinach or chard and turn into baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

5. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes at 350F. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

* To prepare squash, slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Rub the cut side with a bit of olive oil or butter and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes, turn cut side up, and continue baking until tender, ~15-30 minutes depending on size of squash. Scoop flesh out of shell. If you are using butternut squash, you can also peel the raw squash and slice into 1" chunks, then boil until tender (~10-15 minutes).