March is National Women’s History Month which, for “foodies,” might mean celebrating the late, great Julia Child, the woman most often associated with bringing American cuisine to the forefront of the international food arena.
Julia Child introduced us to classic French cuisine, which often meant complicated, rich dishes that now seem outdated, Today’s time-pressured world expects dishes both easy to make and healthful as well. One of the best-loved recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1960) is French Onion Soup, which is delicious but time-consuming and high in unhealthful saturated fats. But by using Japanese miso, you can skip the long process of making the classic beef-and wine stock and still achieve a delicious soup that is easy to prepare and far healthier.
Miso is a basic Japanese ingredient made from fermented soybeans. It has the consistency of peanut butter and comes in many different flavors and colors. It is used as a flavoring agent – for sauces, for example, but primarily as a base for soups that range in color from pale gold to deep russet.
Miso’s flavor can vary in saltiness, sweetness and even its slightly “meaty” mouth feel. It can be found in most supermarkets as well as in specialty food stores. Like all soy products, it is believed to offer many health benefits.
Onions, so essential to a classic French country-style soup, are linked to a decreased risk of several cancers, including those related to the digestive tract.
Miso Onion Soup
– Makes 8 servings
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
- 3 peeled red (Spanish) onions, halved and thinly-sliced
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 3 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium beef broth
- 5 cups water
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 1-inch thick slices whole-wheat Italian bread
- 1/4 cup red or brown rice miso
- 1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat the half the oil in large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring to coat them with oil. Cover tightly, reduce heat to medium low and cook until onions are wilted, about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the sugar over the onions and stir in. Increase heat and sauté until onions are well browned, about 12 minutes, stirring often.
Remove the pot from heat and scrape it to loosen all the browned bits on the *bottom. Stir in mustard, thyme, broth and water. Return to high heat and cook until liquid comes to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pot and simmer until the onions are very soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, brush bread on both sides with remaining oil. Grill or toast bread in 400 degree oven. Set aside to cool. Cut into rough cubes with a sharp, serrated knife.
Place the miso in a small bowl. Gradually stir in about 1/4 cup of the soup, mixing until well blended. Stir the mixture into the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into deep bowls. Sprinkle top with toasted bread cubes. Sprinkle 1 scant tablespoon cheese on top (optional).
Per serving: 102 calories, 4 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat), 13 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. protein, 3 g. dietary fiber, 608 mg. sodium
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. www.aicr.org.