I feel a little guilty. I just ate a steak with a wonderful side dish, a barbecued onion topped with goat cheese and fig and honey. The recipe came from Vegetarian Grilling: 60 Recipes for a Meatless Summer by Karen Schulz and Maren Jahnke. I hope the authors don’t mind, but I do want them to know: their 60 recipes are not for vegetarians alone.
Actually, this onion with the goat cheese is so hearty that, in a different world, you could make it the main course and simply pair it with a salad. You should take a look at Vegetarian Grilling for a bounty of interesting ideas that anyone can enjoy, steak eater or not.
This dish can be made in about 30 minutes. It’s simple and its presents a combination of textures and flavors that you may not have experienced. Truthfully now, how often do you eat figs? Figs and honey? Ah, you are thinking about it aren’t you. Figs and honey and goat cheese? You have to have tried that sometime. You have to.
Okay, you haven’t. And now you can. Using the barbecued onion as the foundation for this dish is clever. That onion tang is the perfect mate for the fig and honey sweetness. And the goat cheese adds that distinctive raspy mouth feel that makes this dish seem complicated.
Actually, it is complicated which contributes to its enjoyment.
The recipe call for thyme and goat cheese. You can substitute the herb or herbs that you personally prefer. And the goat cheese gives you additional options. There is plain, “vanilla” goat cheese aplenty, and then there are the other ones. I selected a round from France glowing with herb fragments. Those additional, random herb flavors simply added to the mystery.
Barbecued Onions with Goat Cheese and Fig and Honey Topping
Yield: serves 4 people
- 2 onions, about 9 ounces each
- 2 large figs
- 3-4 thyme sprigs
- 2 teaspoons ground peppercorns, mixed colors [red, black, white]
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- Oil for brushing
- Honey for pouring over the cooked onions [at least 1 teaspoon per onion half]
Boil the unpeeled onions in salted water for about fifteen minutes. Rinse with cold water and let cool briefly. Peel the onions and cut in half.
Remove the skins from the figs with a sharp knife and finely dice the figs. Remove the thyme leaves the sprigs. Insert some thyme leaves between the onion layers. Salt the onions lightly. Mix the remaining thyme with the diced figs and one teaspoon of ground pepper. Crumble the goat cheese into the mixture, and mix to combine.
Divide the cheese mixture between the onion halves. Place each onion on a piece of oiled aluminum foil, close the foil into envelopes, and grill for about 10 minutes on high heat. Open the foil and drizzle the filling with honey and the remaining ground pepper.
Source: Vegetarian Grilling: 60 Recipes for a Meatless Summer by Karen Schulz and Maren Jahnke
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5 for 1/50th second at ISO‑3200
“How about this?” I handed Suzen the first recipe I had found thanks to Google.
“No,” she said in a flash. Had she read the recipe? No. Did I mind? No. It was the first one. She always rejects the first one.
“Okay, how about this?” She got the second.
She paused, actually scanning. “No.”
“Well, I think you might like this one,” I said, handing her the third. I always give her the good one third. Works flawlessly.
“No. Get out.”
“What do you mean out?”
“Brian, cooking is a lot like baseball. Three strikes and you are out. Out of the kitchen.”
I left. Humbled. Depressed. I get sent on missions to find recipes for Suzen and I often succeed. Often but not always. I need recipes. I am not a chef and I have never been culinary school. I may improvise in the kitchen, but I need that template, that recipe in front of me, to make sure I have all the ingredients and all the proportions. I simply cannot do it out of my head.
Suzen can. Her cooking school, Cooking by the Book, has had enough students to fill Giants Stadium. Twice. And she tested the 3000+ recipes in that last edition of The Joy of Cooking. All those recipes. And, the thousands more that were tried out but did not make the cut for the book. In all that cooking, she’s become a kitchen ballerina.
The day’s mission for me had been what to do with an abundance of peppers, and onions, and tomatillos. It was the end of the week, classes at CBTB were done, and we had leftovers and a challenge.
Suzen had some vision and she translated leftovers into that vision with immense success. This Southwestern Pepper Medley has a lively tang — from onion, garlic and surely those tomatillos — that makes this a substantial side dish. Pair it with any protein and you’ll be successful.
Or, puree this into a sauce and use to top off a burger than has already been adorned with blue cheese. I guarantee your eyes will pop with the sharp, bright tang of this mixture.
I’m sharpening my google skills. Can I learn how to read her mind? Figure out what she really wants? We’ve only been married for 28 years. I’m just getting started. And Google? They have those glasses and the driverless cars and all sorts of advanced gizmos. Surely, Google can …
No. Strike four. I’m really out.
Southwestern Pepper Medley
Yield: serves 8+ as a side
- 1 pound poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 1 pound green bell peppers, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 2 jalapenos, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, washed and quartered
- 1 large white onion, quartered
- 5 cloves garlic, roasted
- Lime juice to taste
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup chopped cilantro gar garnish
Place a small amount of oil in a cast iron pan large enough to hold all the veggies in a shallow layer.
Heat the oil on medium until hot. Add the spices and cook until they become aromatic. Add all the vegetables and sauté until soft. Season with lime juice and salt and pepper to your taste.
Lower the heat to simmer. Add the cilantro and cheese, mix rapidly to achieve a creamy texture.
Sources: Suzen O’Rourke
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/20th second at ISO-640