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April 27, 2004

Small-Time Cooks

The cold weather descended again and brought rain along with it. Mark had an onion soup recipe that he said would raise my spirits. I told him a bottle of wine and a bubble bath could do the same thing. We opted for all three when he showed up at my door late that night, his jacket soaked through from trailing some scumbag through the storm. We also added some cheese toasts to the menu. He was right: The evening did raise my spirits.

Onion Soup

Serves 4

2 yellow onions

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

dash of salt

3 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup red Merlot wine

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary

1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme

2 cups hot water

1 cup shell pasta

2 small leeks

6 white mushrooms

2 Tablespoons Merlot

grated Gruyère cheese

In a large pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Peel the yellow onions and slice them into rings, separating them out. Put them in the pan with the salt and pepper. Stir occasionally with the lid off for 3-5 minutes, until onions become soft. Cover the pot and let them caramelize for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the onions turn mostly brown, remove the lid, add in the 1/2 cup of Merlot, and stir everything together. After a minute, add the vegetable broth and herbs. Stir together and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the water and bring to a low boil. Add in the pasta and cook with the lid off. Meanwhile, clean well and slice the leeks and mushrooms. In a separate pan, melt a little butter. Add in the leeks, mushrooms, and two Tablespoons of Merlot. Season with a little ground black pepper, and remove the pan from heat after two minutes. Once the pasta is cooked, stir in the leeks and mushrooms and serve immediately. Top with grated Gruyère.

Appetizer Toasts

Serves 2

baguette

fresh tomato

Gruyère cheese

fresh ground black pepper

Slice the baguette into pieces 1/2-inch thick, and toast them until crisp. Cut the tomato in half and seed it. Slice the tomato and lay the slices on the baguettes, topping with some black pepper. Thinly slice the Gruyère and add on top. Get the broiler in your oven going and move the oven rack up to its highest position. Toast the topped baguette slices for only about 15 seconds, until the cheese melts. 3 baguette slices are a nice appetizer for one, and go well with the onion soup.

Everything here is vegetarian, and the soup is vegan if you use olive oil instead of butter (use half as much) and steer clear of the Gruyère. For the appetizer toasts, you can make basic bruschetta instead. Slice some cloves of garlic in half, or clean a whole head of garlic and slice it in half. Toast the baguette slices and rub them with garlic right after they come out of the oven. Add the tomato and pepper, as well as basil or onion if you want it.