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Archive for July 8th, 2013

Summer is finally here. There I said it. It’s hot, humid, did I mention humid? But don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to complain because the summer just took too damn long to arrive, so BRING IT. What I will complain about unbashedly is our transit system. I had the misfortune to ride the 504 King the other day in the heat of rush hour and it was B-R-U-T-A-L. Although it is the twenty-first century and we don’t live in a third world country, for some reason our street cars still don’t have A/C. Oh yes, the windows do open, but there is not a lot of air coming in when you are sitting in traffic or moving slower than the pedestrians on the side walks. So I got out and walked to the Metro (Subway) because I had somewhere really important to go, yes I was meeting someone ;-)!

About a month or so ago, I had extended the Blogger Girls Night Out invitation to Norma (From Garden to Wok) a very dear blogger friend, but unfortunately she was unable to make it up from Upstate New York. We were both rather disappointed so when she decided to make the trip to visit her sister in early July, she emailed me to see if we could meet. Of course, I was all over it, but work was busy and I wasn’t able to confirm until a day or two before but she was patient and waited as I finally finished what needed to be done and made the commitment. We had tried to include my old friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) but sadly she had a commitment and was not able to join us but rest assured, she was missed.

I met Norma a few years ago and to be honest, I can’t recall how I came across her blog or whether she left her lovely words on my blog first, but the point is that we’ve known each other in the blogging circles for a couple of years. Norma writes a beautiful blog documenting her escapades in her garden in which she grows a number of beautiful flowering plants and vegetables for the wild life in her area (well, she doesn’t really grow them specifically for the wild life, they just help themselves). Every Monday Norma posts her harvest from that week and it’s really cool to see the variety of vegetables she is able to grow, but then again she is a Master Gardener! Norma also blogs about recipes she makes with her home grown vegetables, giving us handy tricks and tips along the way. Norma is an accomplished food writer, having published two cookbooks as well as running cooking classes in her home town. I’ve made several (this and this) of Norma’s lovely recipes and would encourage you to visit her blog and write some lovely words for her.

Because we were both at opposite ends of Toronto, we picked a central location right at Bay and Bloor at La Societé a trendy French Bistro in the hoity toity area of Yorkville. We talked and talked and talked, honestly — the waiter was so sweet, he came over a number of times and finally said, very politely that he would stand over there and when we wanted something we should give him a nod. We talked for 3 hours straight — we ate too, but completely forgot to take photos! The conversation was lovely and we truly enjoyed each other’s company, just like old friends. Thank you Norma for a wonderful evening and we will see you again, perhaps even in Upstate New York.

We had a lovely three hour dinner, with lots of conversation!

We had a lovely three hour dinner, with lots of conversation!

Speaking of old friends, on a recent Sunday we had an old collegue friend and his wife over for brunch;  I’ve known Gordon for 27 years. We met standing at a window in one of the sky scrapers downtown where we both worked, watching as the snow fell upwards! How could you not chat about that? Gordon and I became fast friends and had lunches from time to time catching up on life, then a handful of years ago we started seeing each other as couples and it’s been lovely — I knew that his wife Angela and I would become fast friends and that JT would get on with the similarly tempered Gordon and I was right, of course.

When I planned this brunch I had hoped that we would have summer weather, so I made this delightful and surprising Chilled Caramelized Vidalia Onion Soup, but on that Sunday, as the morning progressed with rain and cold winds I decided to serve it hot instead. We did a little taste test and yes, it was just as tasty; so if the weather isn’t cooperating and you need to do a quick change, this soup is perfect.

And then shortly after they arrived, the sun started coming out, the clouds disappeared and we opened up windows! I made a quick decision to chill the bowls while we chatted sipping on orange juice and sparkling water and I changed the soup back to a refreshing cold starter!

ChilledVidaliaOnionSoup_0315

The first time I made this soup, I was able to slowly lower the gruyère crisp so it didn’t drown in the soup looking like a brûlé.

Chilled Caramelized Vidalia Onion Soup with Gruyère Brûlé

Makes about 450 mL  but it depends on how thick you want your soup to be

Ingredients:

  • 600 g Vidalia Onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • pinch of fresh thyme
  • Short spray of non-stick coating
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 400-500 mL chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 4-5 tbsp finely grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt

Directions:

  1. Spray a heavy bottom pan with the non-stick spray and begin cooking the onions with the balsamic and white wine. Cook slowly and steadily until you achieve a lovely golden colour. You may wish to add a bit of water in this process (or you can use EVOO, but I’m trying to keep it lower in fat). Or you can use this technique.
  2. Add the thyme and stir well.
  3. Remove from heat and begin adding the stock a little at a time, whilst blending smoothly with an immersion blender. Keep adding stock until your desired thickness is achieved. Press through a fine sieve and refrigerate.
  4. Preheat the oven’s broiler to high. Place a piece of parchment onto a flat baking sheet and place about 1 tbsp of the Gruyère into rounds being careful to keep them well separated. Watch as they broil because they can burn very easily. The oils from the cheese will render and you will see this beautiful lace pattern appear.
  5. Remove the parchment from the cookie sheet to allow them to cool a bit, then carefully lift each one onto a bit of paper towel to soak up the extra oils. Store flat, uncovered until needed — these may be made in advance!

Plating:

  1. With the immersion blender, give the chilled soup one more blend adding in the Greek Yogurt and blend until very very smooth. Return to the fridge.
  2. Chill the bowls for about one hour. Ladle the chilled soup carefully into each bowl, garnish with the gruyère crisp and some chopped chives.
  3. Serve immediately.
ChilledVidaliaOnionSoup_0319

The second time I made this soup, the first gruyère crisp slipped from my fingers into this exact position, and I really liked it, so they were all plated this way!

Notes:

  • Some bloggers have commented that the amount of vinegar is too acidic for their taste in the onion confit or caramelized onion, so you may cut it down, or alternatively add a tbsp of brown sugar to the caramelization process to balance. We did not find it too acidic.
  • For the gruyère brûlé, you can use a small brûlé torch to brown it up a bit more if it’s not crispy enough coming out of the oven.
  • For my first attempt with the brûlé on top of the soup, in addition to broiling the cheese in the oven, I actually used the torch while it was one the soup, it was an interesting combo of cold and hot.

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