Susan at Fat Free Vegan had an interesting idea--prepare a low fat, vegan dish that would capture the romance of Valentine's Day. I thought about this and had many ideas. But, I kept remembering how many of my friends always order French onion soup when they're on a date or out with their husbands for a fancy dinner. You would think that the gooey, stringy cheese, and the impact of all those onions on one's breath would make this dish one to avoid in a romantic situation. But, that doesn't seem to be the case for many people.
One thing some people would like to avoid is the amount of calories in a bowl of French onion soup, on average between 700-1,000 calories per bowl. With that in mind, I offer this alternative from Deborah Madison: Red Onion and Red Wine Soup, With Tomatoes, Thyme and Heart Shaped Croutons. This is a lovely soup, slightly sweet, with a touch of sophistication from the wine. The red hue seems very much a Valentine color, to reflect how passion makes the blood run hot and heavy. Not everyone will think that the heart shaped crouton is an adequate substitute for mounds of runny cheese. But maybe the calorie reduction, which brings a bowl of soup in at under 200 calories, will soften the blow? I enjoyed the taste of this soup very much. Sometimes less is more.
The soup is simple to make and takes about an hour in total to prepare. There aren't many ingredients to conflict with the taste of the onions and wine. The stock is simply water, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and parsely.
Make sure to stop by Susan's site on Tuesday to check out all the other Valentine inspired dishes.
Red Onion And Red Wine Soup With Tomatoes, Thyme, And Heart Shaped Croutons
(Adapted from Deborah Madison's The Green's Cookbook)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or about 3 branches of fresh thyme
8 bushy sprigs of parsley
3 bay leaves
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teas. salt
8 cups water
Put all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, turn heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes. Pour the liquid through a sieve lined with paper towels or cheesecloth.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds of red onion, peeled and cut in half and then cut into thin slices
4 cloves of garlic,coarsely chopped or run through a press
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups canned whole tomatoes, juice reserved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup full-bodied red wine, (I used cabernet sauvignon)
Baguette for croutons
fresh thyme leaves for garnish
Warm the olive oil in a big soup pot and add the onions. Cook on low heat, stirring for about 25 to 30 minutes until they're soft.
While the onions are cooking, pound the garlic in a mortar with the coarse salt (or smash it with a fork in a bowl). Peel, seed, and chop the fresh tomatoes. If using canned tomatoes, remove the seeds before chopping. Strain the juice and reserve for the soup.
When the onions are soft, stir in the garlic, tomatoes, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 cup of the reserved tomato juice and 1 cup of the stock Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Then remove the cover, raise the heat and add the cup of wine. Cook until reduced by half.
Pour the remaining stock into the onions, bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes, partially cover. Adjust for salt and add pepper to taste. Serve garnished with fresh thyme and topped with a heart shaped crouton.
Use dairy and egg free French bread. Slice the bread and use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out hearts. Place on a cookie sheet and bake a 350 degrees until browned slightly and toasty.