You’re what the French call “les soupe à l’oignon”

Totally channeling Home Alone there…

Sorry, we are MORE than a few weeks out from Christmas and yes, I’ve already started watching holiday movies (don’t @ me), so Home Alone may or may not be on repeat.

You know what else has been on repeat?! This CRAZY COLD rain. I’ve been glued to my computer watching these horrific fires engulf whole communities in California, and ironically on the East Coast, we are on day 4 of being flooded with rain.

Just go westward, my friend. They NEED you. 🙁

We are starting to get a little case of cabin fever (#pressed), and my favorite remedy for being stuck indoors is to get my butt in the kitchen and start playing (or binge watch old episodes of Gossip Girl and 90210). I love trying to figure out recipes and this rainy weather had me craving a hearty soup, so French Onion Soup was next on my list to try to make.

Onion soup has been the traditional French hangover cure forever. French onion soup is the equivalent to a 2am McDonald’s run for those crack fries. Onion soups certainly didn’t begin with the French, but like most things culinary, the French surely perfected it.

I’m totally hungover on this dang rain, so French Onion soup was a MUST. My favorite part might be the gratinée…the broiled cheese/bread on top <3

There are so many recipes for French Onion soup but a few things are key:

  • It’s important to allow the onions time to cook down, absorbing all the delicious butter they can until they are perfectly soft. In my recipe below I have 10+ minutes, but they are REALLY special if you have time to let them slowly cook down for 30minutes or more.
  • Take special care to really flavor the broth. Salt is hugely important and I also like to add some aromatics — garlic, onions, herbs — to help!
  • The vino is essential IMO! I’ve used red wine, white wine, dry sherry, etc., and whichever you decide to use, don’t skip it. The nuances in flavor are not to be missed.

Enjoy! <3

All the {French} Onion Soup

The mix of alliums is so delightful paired with the rich beef broth and creaminess of the swiss/gruyere mix of cheese. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: French
Keyword: french onion soup, shallot french onion soup
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Medium Sweet Onion Thinly Sliced in Rounds
  • 1 Leek Stalk Thinly Sliced in Rounds
  • 3 Shallots Thinly Sliced in Rounds
  • 2 Garlic Cloves Peeled & Smashed
  • 3-4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Red Wine (or sub Dry Sherry)
  • 1 Quart Beef Broth or Stock
  • 3-4 Leaves Fresh Sage
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Crusty Bread (baguette, french bread, sourdough, etc.)
  • Trader Joe's Swiss Gruyere Blend
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper

Instructions

  • Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add in onions, leeks and shallots (separating the rings as your stir). Cook down until softened, 10-15 minutes. Stir often until alliums have a deep golden hue. Add in pulled thyme leaves, pinch of salt and continue to cook 2 minutes. 
  • In a dutch oven or soup pot, heat beef broth over medium-low with smashed garlic. Add in herbs to broth. (Pro tip: Tie the thyme springs, bay leaf & sage leaves together in a bouquet, to aid with removal later!) Add a large pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
  • Add in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to onion mixture, reduce heat to medium. Stir in wine, cook for 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add onion mixture to broth, scraping the pan of all that goodness. Increase the heat to medium-high, simmering for 10 minutes. Remove bouquet of herbs.
  • Preheat broiler on high.
  • Separately, toast bread slices until crispy (not burnt) in a toaster/toaster oven. Ladle soup mixture into oven-safe bowls, and top with toasted bread, followed by shredded cheese (I like to throw a few more thyme leaves on top of the cheese!).
  • Place all bowls on a baking sheet (easy to maneuver in/out of the oven) and into the oven for 3-5 minutes until bubbly, golden brown. Remove and serve!

Whole 30+5

This past weekend, I have officially completed my 35th lap around the sun! About a month ago, I made the decision to explore Whole30 before my 35th birthday.

At this point Whole30 is not a new subject. There are about a bajillion blogs, articles and opinions covering what I had previously considered to be the “NO this, NO that” program. I’ve done my fair share of eye-rolling when my sister did it last year, when my friends have done it in the past, and I’ve even cheered along, cynically, when said friends bailed half-way through.

I’ve never been one for dieting. One of my life mantras has been “everything in moderation”…especially when it comes to food. Growing up in a culture of body-shaming, fashionable eating disorders and the like, I’ve tried to maintain a healthy mindset when it comes to my body and the food I consume. Food is meant to be life-giving, to provide sustenance and to help maintain our health. My love affair with cooking truly began when I started to really understand food, it’s purpose and how to prepare it. I found SO much joy in cooking, in plating and definitely in eating food when it’s beautiful and delicious. So, when it comes to diets, or anything marketed as the ONLY or the BEST or the ANSWER to all your problems, I quickly run the other way.

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Now, over the past few years, I have read more and more about integrative health, and specifically had my interest piqued by the study of how different foods can effect your body and your health. These studies are individualized and tailored to YOUR body and YOUR health. Long story short, my mom got a somewhat worrisome health report, and her doctor prescribed an elimination diet to isolate and pinpoint the issue. She suggested Whole30. Mom calls me, her resident recipe-finder, and I jumped right in to helping her. I knew the best way for me to help her would be for me to be an accountability partner and do the program alongside her. Sure, I rolled my eyes at first too, but the more I read, the more I understood. My mom needed to do this and I, too, could benefit from this 30-day nutrition reset. The goal being to restore a healthy metabolism, heal the digestive tract and balance the immune system.

Being a (borderline psychotic) planner, I read and researched everything about Whole30 in a matter of days. The resources provided for FREE on the Whole30 website are pretty incredible. There’s no gimmick, there’s no “pay a fee to access the content,” there’s no secret riddle to figuring it all out. They spell it out, clear as day:

For 30 days, eat WHOLE foods. Meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, natural fats, herbs, etc. Do NOT eat/consume dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol, additives/MSG, etc.

I’ve given up one thing or another for a time (for Lent, etc.), but I’ve never had to give up multiple things at the same time. I knew this would be difficult. Not impossible, but definitely difficult, and mostly annoying.

So I made a plan, searched for ALL. THE. THINGS. Whole30…breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack recipes, and then planned for the month. I cleared out my cabinets of the guilty pleasures such as my midnight cereal, chips & salsa, etc…and had to preload a few Whole30-compliant staples such as avocado oil, avocado mayo, salad dressing, etc. I think all-in-all, I spent around $25 on Whole30-specific items to last me through the month.

I found it to be almost impossible to dine out without being the annoying customer asking too many questions and a laundry list of substitutions, but now that I’m done with it, I can say it was all worth it.

It felt great to recalibrate my body, and now I can slowly start to add things back in and really see how different foods make me feel. In celebration of my completion of Whole30 and my birthday week, my husband and I ate our weight in sushi at Rusan’s lunch buffet. Ha! Probably not the BEST idea food-wise, but DANG was it delicious, I enjoyed every bite and THAT’s what it’s all about.

So I’m technically officially “done” with Whole30, but here are four thoughts and habits that will remain:

  • Little to No Sugar: Kisses, yes, always:) Straight up sugar, no. One of the most eye-opening parts of this process was the realization of how much sugar is in EVERYTHING. It’s crazy. Even things that don’t really need sugar, it’s there. Talk about a hidden epidemic…we are all addicted to sugar and have no idea. So, from here on out, I’m LOOKING for that sneaky sweetness and deciding for myself when and how I will consume it.
  • Little “Fails”, Don’t Bail: Just because I might choose to have a beer here or a cupcake there, does NOT mean I have to bail on my newly discovered food goals. I want to still enjoy everything, in moderation, so that means I don’t have to feel bad over little “fails” (read: too many nachos) because they aren’t really fails. It just means that I can choose to make different food choices afterwards and continue on the journey.
  • Intentionality for All: I’ve decided to be more intentional about the things I consume. This habit of intentionality has been seeping it’s way into various parts of my life and here, now, with food and drinks. I want to avoid mindlessly eating (or drinking) just because…I appreciate and enjoy beautiful things, so why not choose quality over quantity? If I want bread, I’m not going to buy the mass-produced kind…I’m hitting up my neighbor for that incredibly delicious, homemade Verdant Bread loaf and I will feel MUCH better, inside and out, for it.
  • Plans are Worthless, but Planning is Everything (Thanks, Eisenhower): Making plans is all about establishing a goal, which is great! But better than the ability to plan is the ability to adapt and be flexible. Sure, I planned the ENTIRE month of Whole30 with recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But did I stick to that plan 100%? No way. Do I feel bad about it or bail completely when something didn’t go according to my “plan”? Absolutely not. For me now, this is SUPER important. Now that I’ve detoxed and reset my body over the past 30 days, where do I go from here? I make plans, but also know that those plans coupled with my ability to adapt and be flexible are going to be the keys to an actual lifestyle change vs. just a fad.

If you’re looking to do something similar or you’ve contemplated Whole30, feel free to leave a comment or message me. I’d love to help you through your journey. In fact, if you need a little more helping on the planning front, I’m available to come help you meal plan, grocery shop and get started on your journey. Seriously, let me know, I’d LOVE to help, <3


Side Note: Tickets are still available for my next Sobremesa dinner — this will sellout and there are only a few limited seats, so don’t wait to buy yours! Click here for details & tickets.


Now for a recipe! I just have to share one of my favorites from the past 30 days. This Barramundi dish was SO light, SO savory and SO refreshing. Enjoy <3

Whole30 Roasted Barramundi w/Lemon Olive Relish

Adapted from an older Bon Appetit recipe, the quick-picked red onions paired with the savory green olives and acid from the lemons all pairs beautifully with my choice of a sustainable white fish, Barramundi. You might even find yourself licking the plate...I sure did:)
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: barramundi, fish, Whole30
Servings: 4
Author: jess masanotti

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Lemon (or 2 medium)
  • 1 Cup Manzanilla Olives Sliced
  • 1 Shallot Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Capers Drained
  • 1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 Barramundi Filets
  • 1 Tsp Tarragon
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  • Quick Pickle Shallots: Add a pinch of salt and the thinly sliced shallot rings to a bowl, massage and let sit for at least 10minutes.
  • Zest lemon. Cut the ends off the lemon and peel the remaining white parts, using a sharp pairing knife. Cut lemon slices (away from the membranes) into nice, clean pith-free supremes. (Keep the lemon skins and pieces to squeeze on the fish before roasting.)
  • Combine shallots, lemon supremes, sliced Manzanilla olives, capers, lemon zest and 3/4 cup of EVOO into the bowl. Cover and chill in refrigerator.
  • Using a paper towel, dry the Barramundi filets. 
    In a shallow glass baking dish, coat the filets with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, add a dash of salt & pepper and tarragon to each side. 
    Squeeze the remaining lemon pieces on the fish and place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes. 
    *Note: At the 20min mark, remove the relish from the refrigerator to bring up to room temp.
  • Once fish is cooked through, remove and add to serving platter and top with the relish. 

Sobremesa: Fall Dinner

Friends, it’s that time again!

Sobremesa (n) — the time after a meal when the food is gone, but the conversation around the table continues

We had such a lovely dinner gathering earlier this summer, and we are excited to announce our next global dinner for the fall:

Join Us for a Night Under the Stars

Thursday, October 25, 2018

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Joined by my lovely friend and co-host, Sarah, we invite you to a wonderful fall dinner to celebrate the season, cook together & enjoy incredible food and relish in wonderful conversation around the table with friends, new and old.

Sobremesa is a global dinner series launched earlier this year by the amazingly creative minds behind Sunday Suppers in New York. Hosts from around the world are chosen to entertain guests with seasonal dinners in an effort to gather around the table and share the simplicity and love of food.

About the Meal 

from Sunday Suppers

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This meal is inspired by the earth and the processes of fermentation and natural aging.

Fall is one of our favorite seasons and connects us back to the earth. As the season shifts, the color palette mutes and darkens to deep, warm hues. We turn inward, move at a slower pace and look for comfort. Spending more times indoors, we gather around the table with the ones we love. We prepare foods you want to share.

Pungent Cheese, Meat + Fruit
Bread & Black Garlic Butter
Pear, Endive, Fennel, Coriander, Smoked Ricotta
Mercato
Short Rib w/Chili Oil, Garlic Chips
Braised Olives, Pickled Carrots
Saffron Risotto
Plum Torte + Espresso

I am THRILLED about this menu, and I’m even more excited about the venue. This time, we are hosting the dinner at one of the few remaining historic mid-century modern homes in Charlotte. Formally the Blumenthal home built by New York architect Saul Edelbaum in the 1950’s, Sarah and her husband, Charlotte architect Ken Pursley, have lovingly restored and revitalized this home, while keeping the historic beauty in tact.

We cannot wait to gather together, to cook together and to share an incredible meal & amazing conversation. Tickets will go VERY fast, so grab yours today.

Tickets* can be purchased here.

*A portion of the proceeds goes to The Global Hunger Project, a global program based on an innovative, holistic approach, which empowers women and men living in rural villages to become the agents of their own development and make sustainable progress in overcoming hunger and poverty.