Tag Archives: onion

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

ratatouille  salad

~ Grilled Ratatouille Salad with Couscous ~

It’s that time of year when the garden is lobbing bushels of vegetables at us faster than a tennis ball machine. And it means one thing: It’s time for ratatouille. Now, mind you, this is not your traditional ratatouille. Instead of simmering a stew of Provencal vegetables on the stovetop, I’ve thrown eggplant, squash, onions and peppers on the grill until lightly charred, then tossed them with olive oil and fresh herbs. It’s a lighter version that’s very versatile. I like to serve it over couscous, tossed with pasta or spooned on top of grilled garlic bread.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

If you don’t have a grill, the veggies may be broiled in the oven. You may either roast the tomatoes with the vegetables or toss them in at the end. (If you grill them, thread on pre-soaked bamboo skewers to prevent them from falling through the grates). If desired, sprinkle with crumbled feta or goat cheese before serving.

Serves 4.

2 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 red or yellow bell peppers, quartered, stems and seeds removed
1 small eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
1 large red onion, slice crosswise, 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded

Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Spread the vegetables on a tray. Brush with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Grill until lightly charred and cooked to desired doneness, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut in large chunks. Place in a bowl with tomatoes, garlic, parsley and basil. Gently toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.  

Caramelized Onion Tart

This tart is a vehicle for caramelized onions. It’s also inspired by an appetizer I ate years ago in a Swiss auberge overlooking the Lake of Geneva, near our home at the time. It’s been so long, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I do remember the onion tart. It was simple and rustic, just like the half-timbered dining room with its open fire where we tasted it. As we settled into our deep chairs and read the menu, our kir royales (champagne and creme de cassis) would arrive, accompanied by a complimentary sliver of tarte d’oignon. Sweet, rich and minimal, this tart was perfection in its simplicity. Today I make a version of this memory and enjoy another view from our California home. It’s so rich that I like to serve it a similar way, cut in thin slivers, served with a glass of wine.

Caramelized Onion Tart
Serves 8-12

For the dough – adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut in 1/4 inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

Stir flour and salt together with a fork. Toss in butter. Work the butter into the flour with a fork or your fingertips until it resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter apparent. Sprinkle in the water while stirring with a fork until the dough comes together, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Form into a ball and flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour

For the filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons port wine
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 egg, slightly beaten

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot. Add onions and salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, about 30 minutes. Add port wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Remove onions from heat and stir in the pepper. Cool slightly.
While the onions are cooling, roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the side of a 10-inch round tart tin. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart. Spoon onions into the shell and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon thyme over the onions. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
Bake in a preheated 375 F. oven until the crust is firm and golden and the onions have turned a rich golden brown, without blackening, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with thyme sprigs.

Warm Steak and Farro Salad with Roasted Beets, Onions and Chickpeas

~ Beef Ribeye, Farro, Golden Beets, Spring Onion, Chickpeas, Tarragon ~

It’s safe to say that everything I bought today at the market ended up in this dish. Sweet onions, golden beets and fresh chickpeas vied for my attention this morning at the farmers’ market, so I did what any sensible person would do. I bought all of them. Moving on to the local ranch’s stall displaying their glistening meat, I  continued my spree and snagged 2 seriously soft and richly marbled rib eye steaks, each weighing in at nearly 1 pound each. I wasn’t sure exactly how I would put our dinner together, but I knew it would be magnificent with these fresh and earthy ingredients.

Warm Steak and Farro Salad with Roasted Beets, Onions and Chickpeas
Serves 4

3 medium golden beets, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch batons or wedges
1 large sweet yellow onion, halved lengthwise, each half thickly sliced in wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups farro
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 or 3 rib eye steaks, about 1 inch thick
1/2 cup shelled fresh chick peas
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
Sriracha (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C. Toss the beets and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven until beets are tender and onions are beginning to brown, about 45 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the farro: Combine the stock, farro and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the farro is tender but still chewy, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil,  garlic, paprika, cumin and cayenne. Partially cover to keep warm.
Prepare the steaks: Season the steaks all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add steaks, without overcrowding, and cook until brown on both sides, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Cut steaks crosswise in 1/2 inch thick slices.
While the steaks are resting, add the fresh chickpeas to the skillet and briefly saute over medium heat until their color brightens, 1 to 2 minutes.
To serve, spoon the farro into the center of a serving platter or divide among serving plates. Arrange steak in the center of the farro and drizzle with any accumulated juices. Place the vegetables around the steak and drizzle with any accumulated baking juices. Scatter the chickpeas over. Garnish with fresh tarragon. If desired drizzle with more olive oil. Serve warm with Sriracha sauce on the side.

Roasted Provençal Vegetable Salad

~ Roasted Provençal Vegetable Salad with Couscous ~

Consider this as a deconstructed ratatouille – which happens to be oven roasted. The same cast of characters applies, only the method differs. An end of summer symphony of squash, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes are tossed together with olive oil and roasted in the oven until softened and gently charred, instead of simmered and thickened in a pot. The traditional ratatouille stew morphs into a roasted vegetable salad, freshened with a shower of fresh herbs and served over a bed of couscous for a light and healthy meal.

Roasted Provencal Vegetables Salad with Couscous

You may either roast the tomatoes with the vegetables or toss them in at the end for extra freshness. The salad is delicious as is or served over couscous, pasta, or quinoa. Serves 4 -6.

1 medium eggplant, cut in 1/2 inch slices, each slice quartered
2 small zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch slices
2 small yellow squash, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1 large red onion, halved horizontally, each half cut lengthwise in 4 thick chunks
6 baby sweet peppers, stemmed, seeded halved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
Optional: Crumbled goat or feta cheese as garnish

Heat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Place all of the eggplant, zucchini, squash and onion in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets in one layer. Place in oven. Bake until vegetables are tender and turning golden brown, rotating baking pans, to ensure even roasting. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Add tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs. Toss. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve over couscous. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese if using.

Golden Onion Tart with Gruyère and Thyme

This tart is a vehicle for caramelized onions. It’s also inspired by an appetizer I ate years ago in a Swiss auberge overlooking the Lake of Geneva. It’s been so long, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I do remember the onion tart. It was simple and rustic, just like the half-timbered dining room with its roaring open fire where we tasted it. Sweet, rich and minimal, this tart was perfection in its simplicity. Today I make a version of this memory while we enjoy another view from our California home. I like to serve it in small slivers with glass of wine before dinner.

Golden Onion Tart with Gruyère and Thyme
Serves 8 to 12

For the dough – adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut in 1/4 inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

Stir flour and salt together with a fork. Toss in butter. Work the butter into the flour with a fork or your fingertips until it resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter apparent. Sprinkle in the water while stirring with a fork until the dough comes together, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Form into a ball and flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour

For the filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons port wine
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 egg, slightly beaten

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot. Add onions and salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, about 30 minutes. Add port wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Remove onions from heat and stir in the pepper. Cool slightly.
While the onions are cooling, roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the side of a 10 inch round tart tin. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart. Spoon onions into the shell and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon thyme over the onions. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
Bake in a preheated 375 F. oven until the crust is firm and golden and the onions have turned a rich golden brown, without blackening, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with thyme sprigs.

Feeding the Soul: French Onion Soup au Gratin

Patience pays.  The essence of an onion soup is, well, the onions.  When onions are slow-cooked, they break down, releasing their sugars and juices and then they caramelize.  What begins as a crisp white onion evolves into a slippery, squishy, mahogany-colored mound of onion – and this is a very good thing.  Combined with stock, herbs, wine and a splash of cognac, the amorphous mound of slow-cooked onions becomes the base and richness for a sweet, deep, flavorful soup.  Topped with a thick slice of grilled pain paysan which in turn is topped with melted, bubbling alpine cheese, you have a sublime, satisfying and substantial winter soup.

So, here is where patience pays: It is essential that the onions cook for a long time.  There are recipes for onion soup where the onions are fried on the cooktop and browned in less than one hour.  While they may look like they are close to the desired outcome in flavor, they are not.  The onions must sweat, break down, release their juices.  The juices, in turn, must slowly evaporate, allowing the onions to caramelize.  If you skip this process, you will miss in the soup an extra depth of flavor and body that will leave you struggling to improvise as you desperately rummage through your spice cabinet for that extra something that is missing.

Do not be deterred by the time required; all you need is some advance planning and an oven.  While the stovetop works, it does require constant checking and care which is labor intensive for the busy cook.  With the oven, the onions can cook through the afternoon, and an hour before dinner the soup is ready to finish.  Simplicity, economy of ingredients, time and care – this is the essence of slow cooking, resulting in a rustic, comforting meal that feeds the soul and palate.

French Onion Soup au Gratin

Serves 4-5

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 large yellow onions, about 3 pounds, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
1/2 cup sherry or Calvados brandy
5 cups beef stock or a combination of beef and chicken stock
4 thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen string
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12-15 baguette slices, cut 3/4 inch thick
1 cup grated alpine cheese such as Grùyere, Comté or Emmenthaler

Preheat oven to 400 F. (200 C.) Melt butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot with lid.  Add onions and salt.  Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.  Cover pot and place in oven for one hour.

Remove pot, stir onions and any collected brown bits on sides and bottom of pot.  Cover, leaving slightly ajar and return pot to oven. Cook until onions are soft and golden brown, two hours, checking and stirring up browned bits after one hour.  (There will be a lot of liquid in the pot at this point.)

Remove pot from oven and remove lid.  Transfer to stovetop. Simmer over medium heat until liquid evaporates and onions turn brown, stirring and  scraping up any browned bits on bottom and sides of pot, about 20 minutes.  Continue cooking to allow a crust to form on the bottom of the pan without burning, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup white wine to deglaze pan and loosen crust.  Continue cooking until wine evaporates and another crust begins to form.  Deglaze a second time with remaining 1/4 cup wine.  The onions should be dark brown at this point. Add sherry, and cook stirring until sherry evaporates. Add stock, thyme and bay leaf.  Stir and scrape up any brown bits on bottom and sides of pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.  Discard thyme and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the croutons:
While the soup simmers, lightly brush bread slices with olive oil.  Place on a baking sheet and bake in 400 F. (200 C.) oven until light golden and crisp, 5-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Finish the soup:
Divide soup evenly among 4 oven-proof bowls or crocks arranged on a baking sheet.  Gently lay croutons in one layer to cover most of the surface.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over crouton and soup.  Place baking sheet in oven under grill element.  Broil until cheese is bubbling and golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.