Sharing a meal nowadays has become a luxury reserved for those living together in the same household. The days of extended family dinners or going out to restaurants feel like something that we enjoyed forever ago. COVID-19 has put an asterisk on all our community and social plans. However, sharing a meal with someone doesn’t have to be a grand night out with all your friends. Chef Stephanie Lo shows us that you can share a meal with people in need and bring a community together with some delicious food cooked from the heart.
Stephanie Lo is the owner of Mama Lo’s Bakery and Kitchen, a small catering operation located in Toronto, Ont. She guarantees the “freshest of the fresh food” to those who order from her online site. Lo has worked in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years now and fell in love with cooking during her time at George Brown College. “To be honest, I was always interested in cooking,” says Lo. Her father is a chef and she has spent a lot of time watching cooking shows such as Yan Can Cook. Stephanie says there are three reasons why she loves cooking – “I love food and respect it, how it brings people together and how it can heal people.” She has combined this love for cooking with her passion to help people in need.
For 10 years now, Stephanie has supported her community and those in need by sharing her love of cooking with low-income families. During the holidays such as Christmas, New Years, Easter and others, Stephanie generously goes out of her way to cook meals for the encampments in downtown Toronto. She believes in preparing meals for people as you would your loved ones. “Give from the heart, never ego,” she says. During Christmas of 2020, she dedicated her own money and over $15,000 in donations, to cook thousands of meals for the food insecure in Toronto and is hoping to do the same this Easter. For Stephanie Lo, cooking is how she gives back to a community that has always helped her.
Lo has personally experienced food insecurity – sitting in a freezing house alone with nothing to eat, no money, and no idea where or if her next meal would come. A common story among those who are food insecure. “I could very well be down there with our brothers and sisters living in the encampments,” she says. Due to quarantine and the disruption it has had on the food and beverage industry, Stephanie lost her job. And though she has been through hard times, her charitable spirit continues to help others by sharing meals with her community and “will continue to do this annually ‘til I cannot anymore,” Lo says.
If you would like to help out those who suffer from food insecurity you can donate to Stephanie Lo’s 2021 Easter program. She aims to provide another 1,000 meals for the Toronto Encampments. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Stephanie also continues to help out non-profit organizations, including Farmwork to Feed Canada, and readily jumped on board to help us develop easy-to-make recipes with seasonal Canadian ingredients. Recipes such as this help spread awareness of the impact that COVID-19 has had on disrupting food security for all Canadians. It also brings to light the love that we have for the ingredients that Canadian farmers grow. This week, in celebration of Canada’s Agriculture Day, Stephanie Lo makes French Onion Soup with Canadian-grown yellow onions – a versatile, humble, and affordable ingredient.
Soupe à l’Oignon (Onion Soup) is a standard dish in Quebec City, however, in most other parts of Canada, it is a delicious treat that is obsessed over. The cheesy, greasy, and savoury soup soaks into delicious pieces of bread and makes you salivate for another helping. For Stephanie Lo, this dish brings back memories of dining out with her departed Mother. This dish can be made with simple pantry ingredients and brings out the best flavors of onions. “The most important step in this dish is the caramelization of the onions,” says Stephanie Lo, “the browner they are, the sweeter and more robust the flavor is.”
When buying onions, choose ones with firm, shiny and tissue-thin skins. Onions that are discoloured or have soft, wet spots are not fresh. Store in a cool, dry location for up to four weeks. Do not store them beside potatoes as they will cause onions to decay. Too much light will cause the onion’s flavor to turn bitter. Much like their cousin garlic, onions have similar health benefits. Sulfur compounds found in onions are believed to have short-term benefits for reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. They contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and chromium, which help cells respond to insulin.
Stephanie Lo says:
“French Onion Soup is delicious. Hearty and soothing. Add mushrooms, use baguette bread, use any other cheese if you’d like! There’s no right or wrong way to make French onion soup. “Just do the mighty onion justice.”
Stephanie Lo’s French (Canadian) Onion Soup
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 1 hour
- 6 x large yellow onions sliced
- 2 cartons (900 mL) x beef broth
- 2 cups of white wine
- 1 x garlic head minced
- 1 x medium shallot sliced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 slices Swiss cheese
- Croutons – I used garlic croutons
- Thyme for garnish optional
- 1 x bay leaf
Making the French Onion Broth
- Heat a large pot on medium heat with one tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and two tablespoons of butter
- Place minced garlic and sliced shallots into pot and caramelize until they are a deep brown color – the browner, the better, the sweeter
- Add 2 cups white wine to help reduce – allow to simmer for 15 minutes
- Pour in 300 mL of beef stock
- Add bay leaf
- Bring ingredients to a boil
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes
- Optional – add cornstarch for a thicker texture (I prefer it more broth like)
Into the Oven – Cheese and Bread
- Scoop onion broth into a heat resistant serving bowl with croutons and swiss cheese
- Place bowl into broiler at 350F for 5 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble and melt
- Carefully remove from oven
Garnish and Enjoy
- Sprinkle with some fresh or dried thyme for garnish and enjoy!
Canadian Onion Producers:
Check out our other Seasonal Recipes!