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Goat Cheese and Onions Part 1

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My favorite thing to cook, hands down, is caramelized onions. There’s the therapeutic knife work: slicing this surprisingly juicy root vegetable until tears trickle down your cheeks. Then the melting of butter and olive oil… I don’t know about you, but I can taste decadence at the sight of crackling butter… Then, very slowly, the alchemy of cooking is at work – with a little heat, a crackling of pepper and salt, a sprinkling of sugar, and that key ingredient, time — a heap of raw, half moon shapes becomes a puddle of onion candy.

I would just as spoon caramelized onions out of a bowl, but on a recent summer evening I decided to add toasted bread, a sprinkling of fresh thyme, and a smear of goat cheese to the mix. It was a little too delicious. A baguette of goat cheese caramelized onion bruschetta has its merits as a dinner for two – it’s both inexpensive and easy – but you’ll curse yourself if you consume half a loaf of bread as part of your “light” summer dinner, as did I. Or maybe you won’t! Maybe this is the perfect dinner for you. In that case, you need:

Materials

Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Large bowl
Large skillet or pot
Spatula or wooden spoon
Serrated knife
One sheet pan, preferably rimmed
Small glass bowl (preferred, not required)
Silicone brush (preferred, not required)
Tongs
Serving platter or large plate
Butter knife
Microwave

Ingredients

Three large onions
Half a stick of butter
A glug of olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Granulated sugar
Baguette
Goat cheese
Fresh thyme

Instructions

  • Take the goat cheese out of the fridge and bring it to room temp.
  • Peel your three large onions and cut them in half. Then cut each of the six halves into medium slices. Separate the slices into a large bowl.
  • Get your skillet or pot out, and turn the heat on low. Melt your butter and olive oil in the skillet or pot. I melted the whole half stick, but it’s probably better to slice the butter into tablespoons before putting it in the pan so it melts more evenly and quickly.
  • Pile the onions in, and use a spatula or a wooden spoon to coat the onion slices evenly in the fat. Sprinkle the onions with salt, pepper, and a couple pinches of granulated sugar.
  • Let the onions sit for a good long 45 minutes to an hour, until they are a rich golden brown. Turn them every once a while and keep your eye on the skillet. Meanwhile,
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Take your serrated knife and slice the baguette as thinly or thickly as you want. I made thick slices, but I think when I make this again, I’ll slice the bread thinner, so it toasts into crackers. (These are cleaner to eat and make for a lighter appetizer, if you don’t eat a million of them. If you make your slices thinner, you’ll probably need two sheet pans).
  • Spread your baguette slices onto a dry sheet pan. Fill a small container with olive oil. Brush each slice, on each side, with a generous coating of olive oil. (You can also pour the olive oil directly on the pan and rub the slices around in it). Sprinkle the entire pan of bread with a few pinches of kosher salt.
  • Toast the bread slices in the oven until they are crisp and golden brown, say 5-10 minutes. Flip the slices with tongs and toast the other side for just a bit.
  • Transfer the toasts to a serving platter or plate.
  • Put your room temp goat cheese in the microwave for 10 seconds (if necessary. If the oven has made your kitchen warm, you might not need to microwave it).
  • Spread the goat cheese generously on each slice and sprinkle with fresh thyme. (To remove thyme leaves from their stems, point the stem upside down and pull the leaves up the stem between your fingers). If you want to mince the thyme, great, but a sprinkling of full leaves works fine, too.
  • Spoon the caramelized onions onto the warm goat cheese and enjoy 🙂

Getting Creative with Salmon

roaming-the-planet CC BY-NC-ND 2.0I don’t know about you, but salmon is a staple of weeknight suppers at my house. It becomes a matter of finding unique ways to prepare it — ways to  diverge from what is in my mind the most ubiquitous and fundamental of salmon flavorings, lemon and dill. This mild, herby pairing allows the moist, slightly sweet taste of the fish to reign supreme, and for this reason, us home cooks flock to it, or should I say swim. But there comes a time when I want my salmon to pack a zingier, zestier punch — metaphorically speaking, that is, but yes, citrus and citrus zest do figure in. Sometimes that’s accomplished with a thick crust of fresh herbs, or a bed of caramel iced onions. Today, though, I’m taking my inspiration from a glazed carrot recipe of Ina Garten’s, melding fresh ginger, orange juice and zest, butter, and maple syrup to form a sweet, peppery, and mildly acidic sauce for the salmon as it bakes in the oven. The result is light and invigorating:

Salmon with Orange and Ginger

Ingredients

1 pound salmon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Tools

Baking dish
Paper towels
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Rasp grater
Juicer or fork
Saucepan
Wooden spoon

  • Lightly grease a square baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and place it in the dish.
  • Combine 1/2 cup water, the butter, honey, 2 teaspoons salt, and fresh ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer the mixture for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the orange juice and orange zest.
  • Pour the mixture over the salmon, turning the salmon to make sure all sides are generously coated.
  • Bake in the oven skin side down for 25 minutes, or until flaky when prodded with a fork.

These green beans make a light, crisp compliment to the fish:

Ingredients 

1 pound string beans
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions
Freshly ground pepper

Tools

Large pot
Colander
Large bowl
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Sauté pan
Wooden spoon

  • Blanch the green beans for 1 1/2 minutes in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
  • Drain the beans and immediately place them in a bowl of ice water.
  • Zest the lemon and mince the garlic, then mash these ingredients with 2 tablespoons butter.
  • Chop the onions. Then place the olive oil and the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat and swirl to coat 🙂
  • Sauté the onions for 5-10 minutes, until translucent and just starting to brown.
  • Add the green beans with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and sauté the beans until they’re warm. Voilà.
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