Wordless Wednesday – French Onion Soup

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Apple Thyme Bourbon Cocktail

The weekend calls for a cocktail.

We have a few variations on the theme below.  Sometimes we use rosemary, sometimes we use less simple syrup and oftentimes we use more bourbon.  I would also like to have it with a sparkling cider or even a mulled adaptation.  However you chose to assemble it please sit back, relax and enjoy.  Toast to it with someone you appreciate and who appreciates you back.

The work week is too long to do anything less.

Apple Thyme Bourbon Cocktail

Ingredients:

2 ounces Bourbon

2 ounces Chilled Apple Cider

Fresh Thyme

2 Cinnamon Sticks

4 Whole Cloves

2 Star Anise

1 cup of Sugar

Ice

Method:

(1) Make your spiced simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan (one cup of sugar and one cup of water).  Add cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and star anise.  Simmer until sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens to a syrup.  Chill.

(2)  Muddle thyme and 1/4 ounce of the spiced simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.  Add ice, bourbon and cider.  Shake, strain and serve over ice with a thyme sprig for garnish.

* Spiced simple syrup can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Vegetable Barley Soup

There are two types of people in this world – those who are soup people and those who are not.  Undeniably, indisputably, I am a soup person.

I find myself turning to soup when the comforts of home are very evidently needed. When I can’t concentrate on anything besides wanting to curl up on the couch with an oversized steaming mug and sip my way to oblivion, I know it’s time. These phases of intense soup making come and go, but one constant remains – I am a soup lover through and through.

There is something quite extraordinary about taking a mere handful of humble pantry staples and creating something entirely soul satisfying. It’s often a leisurely process – the sweating of aromatics, the simmering of stock, the gentle and quiet reduction and intensity of flavour that only patience and time can create. Consuming it is also a slow process as you simply cannot rush your way through a hot bowl of redemption – you must tread lightly.

The soup below is not of the creamy silken variety. While I admire and appreciate those incarnations as well, this time I needed something much more – rustic home fare. I needed a reminder that soup, and food in general, can be transforming – that no matter how little you have or how restless you feel in your current circumstance, comfort can still be found – and quite easily. This soup is special to me not only owing to all of the above, but because it is also a perfect example of how the rhythm of cookery can be a comfort. After making this soup many times in the past, I know that I can now stand at the stove, barely thinking – sometimes shattered within, and still produce a pot of soothing, undemanding sustenance.

I hope you benefit from this soup as much as we do here in our little home.

Vegetable Barley Soup

Ingredients:

1 – 1 1/2 cups pearl barley

A good splash of olive oil

1 large yellow onion – coarsely chopped

3 cloves of garlic – thinly sliced

2 sticks of celery – coarsely chopped

2 medium carrots – coarsely chopped

2 bacon slices – coarsely chopped

4 large tomatoes – blanched, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cups of vegetable stock

2 cups of chicken stock

1 teaspoon of sugar

Fresh italian parsley – chopped

1/4 cup tomato paste

Method:

(1) Cook pearl barley according to directions on package.  Set aside.

(2) Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Set aside.

(3) Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery to the remaining oil in the pot and sweat until just tender.

(4) Add the tomato and cook, stirring, for five minutes or until the tomato is soft.

(5) Stir in the pearl barley, stock(s), sugar, parsley, reserved bacon and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours.  Season to taste.

* Can be made and frozen for up to 2 months.

** You can use a combination of vegetable stock, chicken stock, or whichever stock you prefer.  

*** You may need less tomato paste. Add and taste as you go.

Pumpkin Granola

There’s something to be said about seasonality – that is, cooking with echoes of the current season and embracing all that is resonate.  Autumn, of course, means pumpkins and nutmeg, apples and cinnamon, squash and sage.

The crisp air reintroduces the warm breath of the oven back into the home.  It welcomes back hearty breakfasts laced with leisure, proteins cooked low and slow, root vegetables, herbs and stock that are simmered gently and eventually find their way into a warm and welcoming bowl.

I am not one to shy from tradition.  In fact, I adore everything that it brings.  And while I might not be the first person to run out to the store for fresh pumpkins in which to make their own puree, or even stockpile the canned variety for the weeks ahead, I do recognize the value of accepting convention and, ultimately, the predictable.

I woke this morning earlier than expected, to an unusually cold floor underfoot – windows were wrapped up in a blanket of frost and the kitchen stood blissfully still in the early morning light.  The rush of the day was just starting to take shape outside and I understood, then, the value of tradition – the routine of it all.

Much like my need for a steaming-but-not-too-bitter-cup-of-coffee as I first rise each morning, tradition brings with it the comfort of anticipation, reliability and consistency.

And so I decided to make a batch of granola just as I have done many times in the past.  Only this one would be flavored with pumpkin, and it would be laced with the spices of the season – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove.  It would be a sweet and salty reminder of the reassurance that predictability can bring.

I urge you to try your hand at this recipe.  It is one of my favorite granola recipes to date and, truly, there are few things as encouraging as having your own home made granola waiting for you in the morning.

Pumpkin Granola

Ingredients:

4 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 Cup Pumpkin Seeds – Natural and Unhulled

1/2 Cup to  3/4 Cup Pecans – Chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon Clove – Ground

1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar – Packed

1/2  to 3/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree

1/2 Cup  Applesauce – Unsweetened

3 tablespoons Maple Syrup

A good pinch of sea salt – preferably Maldon

Method:

(1)  Preheat oven to 300F

(2)  In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients well to combine.  (Oats, nuts and spices)

(3)  In a second bowl, mix all wet ingredients well to combine.  (Pumpkin, applesauce, brown sugar and syrup)

(4)  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  If too dry, add more applesauce or pumpkin puree.  Spread onto baking sheet and sprinkle with the sea salt.  Bake for 40-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.  Bake until granola is golden, dry and starts to form small clusters.

(5) Store in an airtight container.  Serve with cold milk, yoghurt, or use as a topping for ice cream.

New Beginnings.

I’ve been thinking – obsessing, really, over what my first post should be.

When you have spent as much time contemplating everything from the title of your blog to the content, the style and the format as I have, this doesn’t sound too surprising.  I’m really looking forward to this new home.  A space for creativity, for reflection and for self improvement.  Always needing an outlet of my own, I found myself here – and I couldn’t feel more content.

I’m aware that I am much too hard on myself.  I’m aware that this space will not be everything I want it to be right from the start – but I am also learning to be okay with that.  I am willing to take it one day at a time – to work on my images, my recipes and ultimately myself through the process.  I am willing to put the work in to make it everything I know it can be.

After days trying to find the best introduction to make, the doubt fell to the wayside just as quickly as the answer became clear.  How can one introduce a new offspring into the world without a proper celebration?  A celebration is never complete without two things – cake and company.   And so a cake seemed the most appropriate of introductions.

Happy “Birthday”, Renderings.  How long I have waited for your arrival.