Plentiful, Even Without

Have you ever found yourself thinking that you couldn't live without certain foods?

I was a pesco-vegetarian for probably twenty years and a vegetarian for a few.  I toyed with the idea of a vegan and macrobiotic diet, but never fully embraced either.  There were simply those few crucial foods I wasn't willing to give up.

My friend, J. has been following a very restrictive diet for cardiovascular health for six months now.  He is doing well and his diet has allowed him to not have surgery.  It takes a determined, committed person to follow a vegan, whole grain, no nuts, seeds or oils diet. 

He and his family had us over for dinner in the Winter, and he cooked us a beautiful meal that adhered to his restrictions.  I contributed a whole wheat bread without oil or dairy that pleased him, as it isn't easy to find 100% whole grain bread from a bakery period, let alone without nuts, seeds oil or dairy.

Last weekend it was my turn to cook for him.  I was most apprehensive about cooking oil-free.  As a starting point, I took a couple low-fat vegetarian cookbooks off my shelf and began bookmarking.  I was surprised by how many recipes actually fit that criteria.  With that foundation, I relaxed considerably and turned my focus to making the meal seasonal.

I thought I'd share a  recipe with you just in case you need such guidelines, but also to inspire you.  It's a liberating experience to create a meal without  ingredients you thought you would never survive omitting.  Once you learn a few techniques, the door flings wide open to possibilities.

This onion marmalade is essentially caramelized onions without the oil.  I served it with whole wheat baguettes as an appetizer while we sat on the porch and drank beers.  I think you could also use it on pizza, flatbread, or fish.   

Not realizing until I was in the moment, I created a completely monochromatic effect:  the onions and whole wheat bread were essentially the same color, served on a wooden cutting board and placed on a wooden table.  Our beer pretty much blended right in.  The ceramic bowl I served the onions in was glazed in various shades of brown!  (Hence no photo here).

Savory Onion Marmalade

4 cups thinly sliced onion (about 3 large onions)
1 to 3 tablespoons water
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dry red wine

In a nonstick skillet, combine the onions, 1 tablespoon of the water, the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and vinegar and wine.  Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring often and adding water as needed, until the onions are dark brown, sweet and richly flavored.  Chill well before serving.

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups