I don’t know if I am being spurred on by the lackluster economy, the New York Times article that I read interviewing people who lived through The Depression and the measures they took to survive, or thumbing through a few pages of Julia Child’s biography that inspired me to make this. I think it was a combination of all three. The article made me think of ways to use the food items that I have on hand along with inexpensive items procured at the grocery store. Julia Child always reminds me of onion and potato soups, savory soups that are luxurious while being thrifty at the same time. Root vegetables are the way to go. It’s “shabby chic”. Use whatever kinds of onions you have around. I used onions and leeks because that’s what I had. Who doesn’t want to have a crusty piece of bread or even better, a grilled cheese, savory and sweet to dip in a rich vegetable broth brimming and infused with caramelized onions spiked with bay leaf, pepper, and thyme?
This is also a ménage a trois of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Latin America in that the onion soup is the sexy lady, the cheese and date syrup a hot guy hailing from Turkey, and the tortilla encasing the cheese and syrup the other participating Latin American female. Whoa, kinky but good, the flavor of course!
Kasseri is a medium hard cheese with a soft texture and a hard rind (think provolone in hardness) made of unpasteurized sheep’s milk with sometimes goat’s milk mixed in. The use of fresh unpasteurized milk is necessary to get the correct flavor/texture and it is aged for at least four months to develop the flavor. Traditionally, this cheese is eaten (I didn’t know this) in sandwiches or in the kasseropita pie (Turkish cheese pie).
French Onion Soup
2 tblsp x vir ol oil
3 lbs onions and/or leeks (finely sliced)
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
8 c low sodium vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried thyme or Herbs de Provence
10 white or black peppercorns
1 tblsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
In a large heavy stockpot heat oil over medium high heat and add the onions and stir till coated. Add a pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring every now and again until the onions are soft and caramelized (nice and brown) for about 40 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and then add the stock, bay leaf, thyme or Herbs de Provence, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce heat to low, and cook until reduced by about a fourth (about 20-30 minutes) and sort of thick ( there are a lot of onions in relation to the broth). Adjust for seasoning and add more salt and pepper.
Turkish Cheese and Date Syrup Quesadilla
This is very versatile to say the least. Change the bread up or use a different kind of cheese. Use honey or agave instead of the date syrup. I found the Turkish cheese at a local Turkish restaurant/market and the date syrup at Fairway but use what you have!
2 whole-wheat quesadillas
Thin slices of Turkish cheese to cover 1 quesadilla
1 tsp date syrup (or to your taste)
Cover one quesadilla with the slices of cheese. Dribble the syrup over the cheese and top with the other quesadilla. Pan fry in a skillet over medium heat with a bit of olive oil until cheese has melted. Flip once. Cut in wedges and serve along with soup or on its own.