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Onion and Quinoa Soup

From Chef Oonagh Williams of Royal Temptations Catering

Ingredients:

  • 4 large onions, about 1 1/2 lbs. total weight, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. butter or oil - I tend to use olive oil.
  • 4 carrots, peeled (I shred them in food processor; you can also just cut them into small dice)
  • 5 cup gluten-free chicken stock or beef stock for deeper flavor
  • 1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme and some parsley stalks placed in a small conical coffee filter bag that is folded closed and tied into a packet. Known as a bouquet garni.
  • Pinch of finely grated fresh nutmeg
  • 2-4 tbsp sherry
  • 12 oz. can of evaporated skim/fat free milk or milk substitute (I have tried this with fat free half and half, but it breaks up and looks curdled. This doesn’t affect the flavor just the visual appearance. Fresh cream is the best for flavor but contains more calories)
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2-4 oz strong cheddar cheese, grated (optional)

Directions:

1. Heat the butter/oil gently in large saucepan, add onions and turn in butter/oil. Lower heat and leave to cook covered for 5-10 minutes without browning (known as ‘sweating’). As you cut up each onion, add it to saucepan so they start cooking.

2. Add the carrots, stock, quinoa, salt & pepper, and the bouquet garni of parsley and thyme.

3. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until quinoa is tender. Turning the heat off briefly at this stage will allow the quinoa more time to swell and cook.

4. Add sherry and nutmeg and cook for about 5 minutes.

5. Add evaporated milk and cornstarch mixed with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until soup thickens slightly.

6. Adjust seasoning and add freshly chopped parsley to taste.

Tips/Alternatives:

Remember to rinse the quinoa before you cook it. The grain is often treated with a natural insecticide (you may notice it as a bitter smell), so run the dry grains under water to clean them. You can use a very fine sieve, coffee filter or simply fill a cup and drain the grains using your fingers.

If you don’t like quinoa, think of substituting rice, tiny gluten-free pasta, whole grain millet or amaranth, or certified gluten-free oats. However, these grains may not have the same protein benefits as quinoa. Whatever, grain you choose, be careful about buying it from bulk bins. Even though grocery stores may take every effort to prevent cross-contamination, just the action of filling bulk containers releases dust into the air, which could contaminate gluten-free ingredients. I added carrots for color. You could also add or substitute fresh spinach, chopped broccoli, some cooked beans.

 For a non-vegetarian dish, you can add 1/2 lb. of diced Canadian bacon or sausage (make sure it's gluten-free) right before adding the evaporated milk and cornstarch.

I often prefer to serve the cheese at the table. That way, the cheese is not overheated, which can make it stringy, and guests can select the amount they add.

Try the soup before adding more salt at the end. The herbs, cheese and meats may provide enough salt and flavor.

Depending on your concern about calorie counts, consider these options for the soup:

  •  Fat Free milk: 120 calories for 1+1/2 cups
  • Fat Free half and half: 180 calories for 1+1/2 cups
  • Evaporated fat free milk: 300 calories for 12 oz/1+1/2 cup can
  • Heavy Cream: 1200 calories for 1+1/ cups

 

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