“…For this is every cook’s opinion,
No savoury dish without an onion;
But, lest your kissing should be spoiled,
Your onions must be thoroughly boiled…”
—Market Women’s Cries, Jonathan Swift
Leeks, onions, scallions, shallots (boiled, or not): any will do as a dish starter for me … as long as it’s a leftover.
Back in “the day” when I had relatively unlimited time and funds (i.e., “any day” before I had kids), I loved going to the grocery store with recipes in hand and buying all sorts of exotic and expensive ingredients that I might only ever use a little bit of.
These days (now that shopping is a chore, spending money is painful, and wasting food is unthinkable), nothing gets my cooking creativity going like sifting through the dregs of the refrigerator and wondering what edible magic I can make with whatever I find.
Today’s loot included partial portions of about four different onions, some limp stalks of celery, a few flaccid carrots, two-and-a half plum tomatoes, and three wrinkly honey crisp apples, all of which had seen much better days.
The vegetables have now been transformed into a robust, winter-warming Veggie Barley Soup, and the apples (paired with a long-forgotten half-loaf of raisin challah from the freezer) have a starring role in an Apple Bread Pudding that is truly magical — I just took it out of the oven and it has already all but disappeared.
Veggie Barley Soup
 In a soup pot, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Dump in about 1 diced onion, 3 diced celery stalks, and 3 peeled, diced carrots. Saute over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.
 Add about 3 diced plum tomatoes, 6 c. vegetable broth, 1 c. pearl barley, and 1 bay leaf. Add some salt, pepper, and thyme leaves (fresh or dried), to taste.
 Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour.
 Remove bay leaf. Add 1 c. frozen corn kernels and a big handful of chopped fresh parsley. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. The soup will thicken as it stands, so feel free to add more water or vegetable broth till it’s the consistency you like.
Apple Bread Pudding
I’m going to give you my whole recipe here, but the batch I made today was a half recipe, since I had only 3 apples and a half-loaf of challah. This recipe is very forgiving regarding amounts of ingredients…just use whatever you have.
 Assemble your ingredients:
a loaf of challah (raisin or plain), sliced and cubed
1/2 c. butter or margarine, melted
1/2 c. sugar
6 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 c. orange juice
 Lightly grease a glass baking dish and assemble the pudding in the following layers:
FIRST (BOTTOM) LAYER:
a third of the challah cubes
a third of the melted butter, drizzled on
a third of the sugar, sprinkled on
dash of cinnamon, sprinkled on
half of the sliced apples
half of the orange juice, drizzled on
SECOND (MIDDLE) LAYER:
same as first layer, above
THIRD (TOP) LAYER:
remaining challah cubes
remaining melted butter, drizzled on
remaining sugar, sprinkled on
dash of cinnamon, sprinkled on
 Cover baking dish tightly with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees until the apples are apple-pie soft. Then uncover and cook for about 10 more minutes or until topping is golden brown.
 Serve warm as-is, or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top.
p.s. Still in my fridge: a take-out carton of rice, a few spoonfuls of black beans, a few cupfuls of homemade cranberry-orange sauce, and some leftover veggie gravy…wonder what I’ll make for dinner??