Waste makes taste

Mindfulness meets deliciousness in an ugly onion soup

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Ludovic Péron/Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes you need to put aside the recipes and cook with the food you have on hand. Such was the case when I found myself with a pile of red onions on the kitchen counter. 

First, I was not in the mood to eat onions and these were not attractive vegetables. They would never star in those Whole Foods Market ads. Some of the onions were small, some oddly shaped and others with soft brown spots and growing green shoots through layers of papery skin. 

I got the ugly onions because they were inexpensive — incredibly cheap, and I wasn’t willing to let them go to waste. Another cook might have banished them to the compost bin, but that’s just a guilt reducer for wasting still-edible food. 

I started peeling and trimming without knowing what I was going to do with the onions. The ends and peels and such went in a pot with some water to make broth.  

I could have chopped and frozen the red onions for stir-fries, curries and spaghetti sauce or batter-fried pieces in coconut oil as fritters.

I could have pickled rings in vinegar with spices or bottled onion marmalade as a future sandwich topping. 

The onions could have been hickory-smoked a bit on my grill and then sautéed in EVOO to top burgers and such. 

Normally, I might have made soupe a l’oignon gratinee, but my current diet doesn’t include thick, butter-soaked toast blanketed with broiled gruyère cheese. It’s also a pain to make with lots of prep and cooking time.

Maybe I was tired of standing in the kitchen, but on this cold January afternoon I took the recipe path of least resistance. The thought came to put peeled red onion in the blender with broth to get the work over with fast. 

I strained the onion broth but didn’t have enough volume so I added cubes of roasted turkey broth I’d frozen in November.  

Into the blender went the combined broth and some onions until I had a bunch of thick, oniony liquid. It was so easy I openly wept. I took some of this liquid and used it, instead of water, to make a batch of basmati rice. I also saved a little to season a batch of marinara later. 

In a saucepan I heated the onion broth with chopped fresh garlic, garlic powder, chopped dried onion and a couple of cayenne chilies I’d grown. The perfume infused every corner of my place, but the allium flavor punch was mellowed. I tasted it and thinned it with some water and tasted again to add salt, smoked paprika and herbs, slowly building layers of flavor until I had a soothing, fortifying bisque. 

I’m not sure I would have ended up with this deliciousness if I’d known what I was doing when I started. Legendary food writer Mimi Sheraton may have put it best: 

“Are we going to measure or are we going to cook?” 

Local food news

Chef Daniel Asher of Boulder’s River and Woods will open Ash’Kara serving modern Israeli fare this spring at 1043 Pearl St., formerly Pepper the Noshery, Wild Standard and Juanita’s Mexican Food. …  Larkburger will move down the strip mall into a spot vacated by Tokyo Joe’s with $3 burgers, door prizes and raffles on Feb. 8 from 4 p.m. to close. … Sweet Green will open in the former Aji site at 1601 Pearl St. in Boulder. … Oskar Blues is closing CHUBurger restuarants in Longmont and Denver. … Niwot-based Lucky’s Market has downsized dramatically with significant layoffs and store closures, but the original Lucky’s owners, Bo and Trish Sharon, have purchased seven of the markets. Lucky’s Market on North Broadway plus Lucky’s Cafe and Lucky’s Bakehouse will remain open. Wrote baker Jen Bush on Facebook: “We couldn’t be more grateful for our community, and how you all have shown up for us. It literally brings tears to my eyes.”

Upcoming food events

Plan ahead: The best place to sign up for a local farm CSA for the coming season is the seventh annual CSA Fair. Feb. 24 at Sanitas Brewing Co. … The biggest U.S. mead (a fermented honey drink) event of year, The Mazer Cup, happens March 21-22 in Broomfield. … Attend the free Fruit Tree Care Workshop Feb. 16 at a local apple orchard, courtesy of Boulder’s Community Fruit Rescue. fruitrescue.org 

Elvis Denver Sandwich Flashback

On Feb. 1, 1976, Elvis Presley flew his friends on his private jet from Memphis to Denver to sample the Fool’s Gold sandwich served at the Colorado Mine Company restaurant. It was a hollowed-out bread loaf filled with a pound of bacon, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly. The sandwiches cost $49.95 each 44 years ago and were delivered to a hangar at the now-closed Stapleton International Airport. 

Words to Chew On

“The rise of veganism is a question less of personal taste than of generational upheaval. … Ultimately, the vegan wars are not really about veganism at all, but about how individual freedom is coming into conflict with a personal and environmental health crisis.” – From “Why do people hate vegans?” by George Reynolds in The Guardian.  

John Lehndorff is a former catering prep cook. He hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU (kgnu.org). Visit his home page: johnlehndorff.wordpress.com