Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Healthy Vegan French Onion Soup with Cannellini (White Kidney) Beans and Garlic Toast

Cut onions in half length-wise and thinly slice.

Make a quick stock from cremini mushrooms and vegetables.

Home-made mushroom stock replaces traditional beef broth.

Caramelizing onions takes time and patience.

For fewer calories, serve the soup without the garlic toast.

Traditional French Onion Soup
This classic is typically made with a beef stock and topped with a baquette slice covered with shredded cheese (like a Gruyere). The soup is placed in flame-proof bowls and put under the broiler until the cheese melts. This lighter version is made with a home-made mushroom stock. Mushrooms have a "meaty" taste and create a dark broth that gives the finished soup the expected color. By topping it with garlic toast, you avoid the complexity of broiling and handling hot soup bowls. This can be tricky and dangerous during a dinner party. Adding Cannellini or white kidney beans provides added protein and dietary fiber and turns a soup course into the main entree.

Health Benefits of Onions
Onions are in the Allium family. They contain the beneficial sulfur compound, "allyl propyl disulphide". In addition, onions are very high in dietary fiber, vitamin C and chromium. Chromium is an important trace mineral that helps regulate blood sugar as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Onions are also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. In addition, red and yellow onions contain a number of important flavonoids such as quercitin, a powerful antioxidant. Quercitin and other flavonoids have been associated with protecting cells against cancer-causing substances and reducing the risk of many cancers. In fact, onions are said to reduce the carcinogenic effects of eating meats barbecued with high temperatures. Onions also have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. They are known to reduce respiratory congestion.

Low Fat, High in Protein and Fiber
This rich and filling soup only has a little over 200 calories per bowl with only 0.4 grams of saturated fat and no cholesterol. It provides nearly 8 grams of good quality protein and more than a third of your daily requirement of dietary fiber.


Vegan French Onion Soup with Cannellini Beans
[serves 6]
For the stock
8 cups filtered water
1/4 pound crimini mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
2 stalks of celery, cleaned and each cut in four pieces
1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut in four pieces
8 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic in skin, cut in half or smashed
Tops of onions used in recipe below
1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
Sprig of fresh thyme
For the soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large onions, thinly sliced (about 10 cups)
1 teaspoon Sucanat or organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (or 1/4 teaspoon dry)
7 cups of mushroom stock from above
1 can cannellini or white kidney beans
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the garlic-herb toast
1 tablespoon vegan buttery spread
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh herbs (thyme or parsley)
6 thick slices of whole grain or sourdough baquette

To make the broth, combine "stock" ingredients above in a pot and simmer partially covered for an hour. Make the onion soup while the stock is simmering. Using a non-stick 5 quart dutch oven or soup pot, saute the onions in olive oil, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. If you do not have a non-stick pot, use 2 tablespoons of olive oil instead of one. Add the sugar and cook another 45 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions caramelize and turn a light brown.
After an hour, while the onions are still cooking, remove the simmering stock from the stove and strain out the mushrooms and vegetables, reserving the stock. You should have about 7 cups of stock. Discard the veggies but feel free to eat the mushrooms while you are preparing the rest of the soup!
Once the onions are caramelized, add garlic and thyme and saute for a minute. Add the reserved mushroom stock and the cannellini beans and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
While the soup is simmering, turn on the broiler and cut 6 thick slices of baguette. Put a little of the garlic-herb spread on each slice and toast under the broiler.
Divide the soup into bowls and place a piece of garlic toast on each and serve.

Per serving: 228.5 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 7.9 g protein, 42.5 g carbohydrates and 9.3 g of fiber.

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