Sunday, February 23, 2014

One Very Special Onion - Grilled Vidalia Onions with Gorgonzola

He's smelly and sometimes he makes you cry. No, I'm not talking about a bad boyfriend, I'm talking about an under appreciated and under loved veggie that I hold dear - The Onion. For me, onions of all kinds are a thing of beauty. 
My Grandma, "Mima" Brooklyn, NY, Circa 1940

I love them raw and crunchy, spicy or mild, cooked, grilled, or caramelized. Whenever I'm preparing a salad, it's honestly hard for me not to nibble on a few slices of raw onion along the way. There's just something about a vegetable that bites back that I can't resist. I do grant that uncooked onions aren't the most ideal snack for social interaction, and though I contend they stand on their own or with minimal enhancement beautifully, not everyone agrees. 

Taxonomically speaking, onions belong to the Allium Family, a group that also includes shallots, scallions, garlic, chives and leeks (not to mention our other favorite, ramps). The many health benefits  that allium vegetables offer should also not go unmentioned. Still, if I were to play favorites with onions specifically, Georgia's one and only Vidalia Onion variety would be my choice. Sweet and exceptionally mild, vidalias were always my Mima's favorite (and she was the original kitchenista). I know she passed her vidalia onion passion to me - she used to say they were so sweet you could eat them like an apple! Now I think that was a bit of hyperbole on my grandmother's part, but still, she sold me on the joys of this very special onion. Today, I'd like to celebrate my love for this veggie by showing you a somewhat minimalist approach to enjoying its wonders. Serve Grilled Vidalia Onions with Gorgonzola and Balsamic Glaze alongside any protein, even on top of a burger!  I believe this simple accompaniment will convert even the most stubborn onion hater. These sweet and savory grilled onions cook well atop an indoor grill pan, but also make a perfectly elegant grillable side  for your next outdoor barbecue too. Best of all, this recipe is as easy and tasty as they come. Enjoy!

Grilled Vidalia Onions with Gorgonzola & Balsamic Glaze, Photo: NK

Grilled Vidalia Onions With Gorgonzola & Balsamic Glaze
Makes 4 Servings, 1 Onion Slice Per Person

1/3 Cup Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese (we used Gorgonzola Dolce, which is milder)
1 Large Vidalia Onion sliced into 1/2 inch rounds - you should get about 4 rounds from it
Balsamic Vinegar, Balsamic Reduction, or store-bought Balsamic Glaze
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
Coarse Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat the broiler. 
On your stovetop, heat an ovenproof grill pan (or outdoor grill) for about 3 to 4 minutes over medium flame. Liberally brush both sides of the Onion rounds with Olive Oil. 

2. Place Onions on the grill pan and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes per side, onions become more golden, and grill marks appear. The onions should be softer but not still somewhat firm. Season the tops of the onions with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then turn off the flame. 

3. A few minutes before you are ready to eat, sprinkle crumbled gorgonzola over each onion round and place grill pan under the broiler. Broil for 2 to 2.5 minutes or more, until cheese has fully softened and onions have browned a bit more. Remove from broiler, drizzle with Balsamic and serve! So yummy… 

Note: This recipe can be easily adapted to the outdoor grill in summer. Just cook a bit longer so cheese softens and skip the broiler portion if you don't have the time or inclination. Your cheese may not soften as well but this elegant veggie side will be just as tasty! 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Meet The Chef - Ottolenghi's Eggplant With Saffron Yogurt

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of this cold. We barely broke twenty all week.  Apparently, it's not just a cold snap, but more like a weather "condition". Kind of a thing, you might say. My husband, who happens to enjoy a later work schedule than mine, sent me off each morning, half delirious, mumbling the words: "poollaaaarr vooortexxx," his sleep-laden voice muffled by layers of sheets and comforter, making him sound, adorably, like E.T. on quaaludes. If you too are looking for a way to forget about the nose-diving mercury, why not join me for a quick an easy culinary sojourn to a warmer climate? 

Roasted Eggplant With Saffron Yogurt and Pomegranate, Photo: NK
Today's recipe for Eggplant With Saffron Yogurt comes from it chef Yotam Ottolenghi. I have been obsessed with this guy ever since I read about him in one of my food mags. Born to Italian and German parents and raised in Jerusalem, Ottolenghi made a name for himself once he moved to England, where he started a series of gourmet food shops. His recipes are gorgeous, simple, and his heavy focus on the flavors of the Middle East, is right up my alley. Learn about him!  Clearly, I was delighted when I received one of his cookbooks as a Christmas gift (more about the awesome foodie gifts I was lucky enough to receive here). Back to our gorgeous vegetable side dish. Today's platter of golden roasted eggplant, creamy saffron yogurt, and bright basil leaves makes for a pretty dramatic presentation. A sprinkle of crunchy pomegranate seeds add color and crunch. Side note: we're loving pomegranate lately…check out our Basil Pesto and Pomegranate Pasta HERE. It just happens to be a wonderful way to use any leftover ingredients from this recipe. 

Ok then, on to the main event!

Roasted Eggplant Wedges, Photo: NK

Ottolenghi's Eggplant With Saffron Yogurt
By Yotam Ottolenghi/Sami Tamimi
Ottolenghi The Cookbook 
Serves 4 

Pinch of Saffron Threads
3 Tablespoons Hot Water
3/4 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed
2.5 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
Sea Salt

3 Medium Eggplants, cut into 3/4 inch rounds and then into wedges
2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts, toasted 
Olive Oil, for brushing
Handful of Pomegranate Seeds
About 20 Basil Leaves
Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Making the Saffron Yogurt, Photo: NK
1. To make the sauce, steep the saffron threads in a small bowl with the hot water. Let the mixture sit for at least five minutes. 

2. Place yogurt into another bowl, and pour in the saffron infused liquid. Now add the garlic, lemon juice, and a good pinch of salt. Give it a whisk and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary dab then place it in the fridge to chill. This sauce will keep up to 3 days.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 and oil 2 large baking sheets. Brush eggplant wedges on each side with some more oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast the eggplant at least 20 minutes. It should take on a rich, light brown color. Depending on your oven, you can let them go up to another 10 minutes but watch them careful so they do not burn. When finished, cool the eggplant.  It will also keep for 3 days, but you must bring it to room temperature before serving. 

4. To serve, place the eggplant slices on a large platter with their edges slightly overlapping. Drizzle the eggplant with the saffron yogurt and sprinkle it with pine nuts and pomegranate. Place the basil on top of it all. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Slaw 'n Sprouts - 2 Easy Cures for Weeknight Meal Fatigue

Take it from me, it's easy to fall into a cooking slump with your go-to proteins. My solution? Whipping up a quick and delicious complimentary side dish is one way to add variety. Another tactic I often employ is to create fast slaws or salsas to top off meat, fish, or poultry (some ideas here and here). Don't be afraid to use the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you have on hand! You'll be surprised what you can come up with. These quick accompaniments are a great way to add interest to your meals without adding much extra time or effort. Who has either of those to spare on a hectic work night? Today's slaw is one of my favorites because it uses the classic apple and pork pairing in a more modern way than a tired old dollop of apple sauce. We used beautiful Opal Apples that we found at the market (check out their striking yellow hue), but any apples, green, yellow, or red, will do. Try to target whatever variety is in season.  

Pork Chops with Apple & Onion Slaw + Weeknight Brussels Sprouts, Photo: NK
Now, without further delay, please enjoy Apple & Onion Slaw and a bonus veggie side dish too. 

Simple Apple & Onion Slaw (for Pork or Chicken)
Serves 2

1 Yellow Apple or other variety, halved, cored, and sliced into 1/4 thick slices
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter
1/4 large Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Light Agave 
3 fresh Sage Leaves, minced
Salt and Pepper

Melt Butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. 
Add Apples and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. 
Add Red Onion. Cook another few minutes until Onions soften.
Add Apple Cider Vinegar and Agave. Sprinkle on Sage and stir everything gently. 
Add a pinch of Salt and some Pepper.
Portion slaw onto your favorite protein, serve, and enjoy! 

Now for our go-to fall/winter side dish, our absolute FAVORITE Brussels Sprouts recipe for lazy weekday dinners or any dinner, might I add:

Weeknight Brussels Sprouts (originally published here) are wonderfully satisfying in all their naked sprout glory. To cook then, we combine sautéing and braising which shaves time off the preparation and enhances texture. Our sprouts are so flavorful that they require no zhushing (bacon and all those other popular extras are simply not necessary) to be delicious. Test the sprouts for doneness as you go. A bit of firmness should remain in them. Nothing's worse than a mushy brussels sprout. ENJOY! 

Weeknight Brussels Sprouts - preps in a flash, Photo: NK

Weeknight Brussels Sprouts
Serves 3-4
Cooks in 15 minutes, 5 minutes active time

One small basket of Brussels Sprouts, washed, a few of the stiff outer leaves peeled off and discarded, then cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup of chicken broth or vegetable broth (for vegetarian preparation)
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil 
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Add oil and butter to a large sauté pan. Melt butter over medium heat.
When butter is melted, shake the pan to totally cover the bottom of the pan
Place Brussels Sprout halves, cut side down, in the pan - as many as you can fit.

2. Saute the sprouts Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until slightly browned and golden (see photo above).

3. Add broth to the pan, pouring until liquid reaches about halfway up the height of the sprouts. Allow liquid to reach a gentle boil.

4. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook another 7 minutes for al dente or 9 minutes for slightly more tender. Drain off the liquid and season sprouts to taste with salt and pepper to taste. Serve!