onion-skin broth & tuscan bread soup

while the soup itself is stupid easy to make, this is not a recipe you just whip up. you'll have to set an intention to make this soup several weeks or months from now... why? because it is all about the broth. and collecting the ingredients for the broth, without shortcuts, takes a long long time. that said, i can think of a shortcut for those of you with less patience. 

about this broth... i wrote a few weeks ago about the amazing book called 'eating on the wild side.' by page 62, i had a vision of this soup. a soup that utilized the nutrients and antioxidants of onion skins - which apparently is the most nutrient dense part of the vegetable! and here i've been composting onion skins for years!! when i've made pho broth before, i remember it called for roasted onion skins to add depth of flavor, so i was curious what a simple onion-skin broth would taste like. so i have been hoarding onion skins in my freezer for months. any time i slice an onion for a stir fry or another recipe, i add the outer later and skin to a gallon ziplock bag i store in the freezer. it dawned on me later to combine my stash of parmesan rinds with the onion skins. those i had been saving for sometime anyhow and adding to stocks for an incredible added flavor. the addition of the parmesan made the broth smell incredible while it simmered away... almost like a french onion soup! 

it took me a bit more than a month to fill up my gallon bag with onion/shallot skins and parmesan rinds. you could add carrot or parsnip tops to the bag too, if you want to save them from the compost. i jokingly described this recipe to my dad as compost soup, but that didn't sound too appealing. what it is though is delicious!! 

onion-skin & parmesan-rind broth ~ makes 1 gallon
1 gallon sized ziplock full of onion or shallot skins and scraps of onion
6-10 inches of parmesan rind
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 gallon water

you'll also need a nut milk bag or fine-mesh cheesecloth 

in a large pot, combine all ingredients to submerge skins. try to float the parmesan rinds on top of the onion skins, so that they don't stick to the bottom of your pan. cover and bring to a simmer. turn stove down to lowest heat and simmer overnight, or for at least 6 hours. i then strained the broth through a colander to remove the onions and parmesan, and then strained it through cheesecloth to remove any grit that may have been on the onion skins. store broth in fridge or freezer or make into a large batch of soup! 

here's my idea for a *shortcut* ... take a few pounds of small yellow onions (smaller are more nutrient dense) and simply slice them into quarters, skins intact, and make a broth with that! if you don't eat parmesan too often, ask your specialty shop if they have any rinds or buy a couple rind-iest chunks of parmesan you can find and immediately cut the rind and to add to your stock. cover onions and rinds with a gallon of water and a few teaspoons of salt, and simmer overnight. 

tuscan kale, white bean & bread soup 
1 cup dried flageolet or other white bean (or 3 cups cooked beans) 
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups thinly sliced shallots
2 large bunches tuscan kale
1 loaf crusty bread
1/2+ cup shaved parmesan 
fresh cracked pepper to taste

soak dried beans overnight. drain from soaking water. add soaked beans to a crock pot or large soup pot and submerge under 2 inches of water. cook as directed on package or bulk bin or until a few beans just start to break apart. drain beans from cooking liquid. 

crush garlic and set aside for 10 minutes. in a large soup pop, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. saute sliced shallots (saving the shallot skins for your next batch of broth!) until translucent. add crushed garlic and saute for just 2 minutes longer. add the cooked beans and 3 quarts to a gallon of onion-skin broth and bring to a simmer until beans are perfectly tender. season to taste. finally, wash and de-stem the kale. slice into thin ribbons and set aside.

i like my kale wilted but not overcooked in soups. so i store the kale on the side and just wilt a few handfuls with smaller portions of soup. however, if you are feeding a crowd, add both bunches of kale to soup and simmer until wilted. 

to serve, brush slices of crusty bread with olive oil. top with a pile of shaved parmesan and broil until edges are brown and cheese is melted. serve parmesan toasts on side, or dunk into the soup... or for a classic take on tuscan bread soup, tear toasts apart and add the chunks to bowls of soup! 


  1. I read this post when you first posted it, and then tucked it away in my brain somewhere. Tonight, I was peeling 3 pounds of onions for French onion soup when it came back to me, so I saved the peels! Conveniently, I also just used up my third parm rind tonight and added that to the freezer bag, so I think it's meant to be. My question though is that my onions aren't organic and I'm worried the skins have a bunch of chemicals on them. What do you think?

    1. Hmm. Well, compared to say strawberries, at least onions are not being sprayed directly with chemicals. The soil is the concern with non-organic onions, so I would think the onion skin and the onion flesh would be comparable in levels of toxins since they both absorb components of the soil. That said, onion skins have WAY more antioxidants than the onion flesh itself, so I'd say go for it! Use those skins. Hope that is helpful. I use this broth for all types of soup! I wonder if it would be overkill to use it in French onion soup? Ha.

  2. After saving onion skins and parmesan rinds for a few months for this specific recipe I am SO excited to finally try it! Aubrey, my house smells delightful and it's only been simmering for an hour! Can't wait to try the finished result!
    Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. I'd love to try this soup but I'm wondering what you mean by "add the cooked beans and 3 quarts to a gallon of onion-skin broth". Thanks for sharing!

    1. You could used canned beans in the soup recipe or follow my directions to cook your own beans before adding them to the soup. The 'onion skin broth' recipe is listed above. You use 3-4 quarts of the finished stock in the soup recipe. Hope that clarifies any confusion!... First make stock, then cook beans, then you can make the soup!

    2. You could used canned beans in the soup recipe or follow my directions to cook your own beans before adding them to the soup. The 'onion skin broth' recipe is listed above. You use 3-4 quarts of the finished stock in the soup recipe. Hope that clarifies any confusion!... First make stock, then cook beans, then you can make the soup!

    3. Thank you for your quick response. After re-reading the recipe (slowly this time and not speed reading!) you're very clear in your wording. Tuscan bread soup is on the menu for this week, I plan on using your *shortcut* recipe because I can't wait to try it!

  4. Oh man, I am doing the quick version of the broth right now and it smells amazing! So perfect for this stormy day near Seattle(:

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