“In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection.”
(celebrated French chef b. 1872)
A good friend who is going through hard times in coming to dinner tomorrow night for a quiet meal. It’s not a meal to cheer up but to comfort and support. I wanted to plan something something delicious and simple to complement the long conversation that will take place.
As you may know, I’m a foodie. I love to read recipes and shop for interesting ingredients. Then eat great, simple meals that last an evening. I actually cook as a creative outlet anytime my life is
busy (oh yeah… not gonna say that word) filled with many wonderful activities. If I’m looking for an elegant but easy meal, I make French Onion Soup. It’s perfect with a light salad and an (almost) homemade Zen baguette. It’s great on a hot day or cold. So it will be perfect tomorrow night. The prep time is only about 15 minutes. It simmers for a while, then you broil just before eating and Voila! A perfect Zen Meal!
stick of butter (a little less if you’d like to add olive oil)
4 onions, sliced as you like, thick or thin. I like both!
2 garlic cloves chopped or crushed
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
salt and pepper
1 cup red wine or white wine
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts/8 cups beef broth (I made 2 cups chicken as well)
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere (Gruyere is very expensive. Any good melting cheese will do – I’ve even used mozzarella!)
1. Prep time is short and consists mostly of gathering ingredients and slicing the onions. It’s especially simple if you’re lucky enough to have a Cuisinart like me. After the slicing, melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes.
“A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.”
2. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Next, remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Add the flour slowly, dusting the onions and giving them a stir for about 10 minutes. Next, add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. You’re almost done!
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci
3. When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. You can arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere or similar cheese. Or you do like I do – put the toasted pieces right onto the soup and sprinkle on top. Whatever is easier… remember this is a simple meal.4. Broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. And don’t forget to watch it. I often start to do something else and then the cheese burns! And I put the bowls on a pan incase the soup would boil over.
“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts!”
Now, no meal is complete for me without an incredible bread. So…Shhhh….Here’s my secret to Zen Baguettes! I buy Rhodes Frozen loaves. Then defrost and shape the dough into a baguette shape. I inherited this wonderful William Sonoma pan (see below) that’s just perfect for baguettes. Sometimes I brush an egg wash on top and sprinkle Herbs to Provence seasoning salt on top. It’s almost a meal in itself.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
What I’ve found out about cooking is the same thing I’m finding out about life. Yes, there’s often no way to escape from the complexities of life/cooking when you’re a parent. But the most memorable times/meals are the ones where we take a break with no thought of doing anything else. Live in the moment. Be with the ones we love and appreciate. Have a great conversation without any reminders or reproaches. Break bread and be grateful. Watch the sunset and smile. Life is good.
Yes, simplicity is often the best approach.
Enjoy these other Zen Meals:
** French Onion soup recipe adapted from the Food Network’s Tyler Florence recipe.
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