How to Make Caramelized Onions, Featuring: Brie, Pear, and Caramelized Onion Bruschetta

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Day 2 of Five Days of Appetizers for the Holidays!

Day One: Thai Peanut Vegetable Dip

I don’t know about you all, but for me, the holidays are very tightly associated with sensory memories. When I think about going home for Christmas, I immediately imagine smelling the evergreen in the house, having my back to a hot fireplace, and delicious smells emitting from the kitchen.

This recipe is one of those holiday dishes that my mind imagines, with mouth water smells that will fill the whole house and bring everyone to the table. In other words, for those of you hosting a party or festive gathering this holiday season- this recipe is perfect for you! Greet your guests at the door with the smell of fresh baked brie, caramelized onions, and fresh ripe pears. It’s a perfect winter combination and easy to handle in small portions.

Check back tomorrow for another delicious appetizer, and happy holidays!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette (I prefer a whole wheat, whole grain baguette!)
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 pears, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/6 wheel Brie cheese
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon balsamic vinaigrette {optional/if needed}

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Directions for caramelized onions:

  1. In a medium sized skillet, heat up 2 Tablespoons of oil. Once hot, add the onions and brown sugar to the pan, stirring until completely mixed.
  2. Once mixed, turn the heat down to medium-low heat and allow the onions to “sweat” for fifteen minutes- stirring every five minutes or so. This allows the water to completely steam out of the onions, ensuring they will caramelize all the way through.
  3. Once fifteen minutes has passed, continue cook the onions the onions, but stir frequently. If at any point the onions begin sticking to the pan, add a dash of balsamic vinaigrette for moisture.
  4. Cook until the onions are soft and between honey-colored and deep brown in shade, about 30- 35 minutes total.

Directions for bruschetta:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350˚ F and line a baking sheet with a sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut your loaf of bread into 1-inch slices and arrange on the baking sheet.
  3. Bake the bread for 3 minutes, or until lightly crisp.
  4. While the bread is toasting, slice the Brie and pear into thin, long slices, if not already prepared.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven and quickly arrange the bruschetta.  Each piece of bread should have a piece of Brie on the bottom, 1-2 slices of pear in the middle, and a scoop of caramelized onions on top.
  6. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for an additional 5- 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Remove from the oven, allow the bruschetta to cool for a few minutes, and enjoy!

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Notes and Tips!:

Balsamic Bruschetta

There are probably a million ways to eat bruschetta. At the bistro I work at, it’s all about the pesto. For some, it’s all about the add-ins (ie capers, cheese, onion, etc.).  For others, it is all about the bread, or all about the tomato variety. Fortunately, however you choose to do bruschetta, it’s pretty hard to mess up.

After playing around some in my tiny rented kitchen, I found this combination of flavors and ingredients to be my favorite. This dish is perfect as an appetizer, or as a meal served along side a delicious fresh salad. This recipe is also perfect for these late summer months, while the tomatoes are fresh and can easily be found at the farmer’s markets. Celebrate these last few weeks of summer! Enjoy some balsamic bruschetta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, sliced into ½ inch thick slices
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained
  • 2(+) Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Black pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Arrange the slices of bread on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of each bread slice with a coat of olive oil.
  3. Bake the bread 5-8 minutes, or until crispy on the bottom and turning a golden brown.
  4. While the bread is cooking, mix the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  5. Serve each slice of bread with a spoonful of the tomato mixture- garnishing with crushed black pepper and/or salt as desired.

 

Notes and Tips!:

Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes, Mint, and Goat Cheese

In an ideal world, I would only cook with produce that is in season. There are several reasons for this. 1) If a product is in season and in your grocery store, there’s a higher chance it’s local. When we buy out of season produce, it has been shipped from somewhere with a different climate- which is bad for the environment. 2) There is a huge financial benefit to shopping in season! Produce is cheaper when it’s naturally time for it to be harvested. 3) There are health benefits to shopping in season. If we follow the calendar year and eat what is available in each season, we will most likely increase the variety of produce we consume, and thus nutrients we intake. Seasons are Mother Nature’s way of balancing our diet.

I still have a lot to learn about the seasons for different fruits and vegetables, but one season I have been looking forward to is eggplant season. And good news! Here it is! The natural season for eggplants is from July to October, with some slight variations based on location.  Eggplant was not a common vegetable I ate as a child, but as my obsession for reading recipes has begun, I have been dying to try several eggplant recipes. It’s a very versatile produce and can be prepared in numerous ways.

The recipe I have here today calls for oven roasted eggplant slices that are then topped with a delicious tomato based salad- almost like bruschetta but with eggplant slices instead of bread! It’s perfect for a meal for 2, or as an appetizer or side dish! Happy eggplant season, and happy cooking!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium), in 3/4- to 1-inch slices
  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup)
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese or crumbled ricotta salata*
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • 3 seeded, diced medium tomatoes (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and prepare a baking sheet by coating with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  I suggest using a pastry brush to really cover the entire sheet!
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheet, sprinkling each slice with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Roast the eggplant for 15 to 20 minutes, without disturbing it.
  4. After roasting, remove the eggplant from the oven and flip each piece.  They should flip with ease, and the underside should be dark and slightly blistery.  If the slices are not dark and blistered, allow them to cook for another few minutes.
  5. Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper again, and return the eggplant to the oven- roasting for another 10- 12 minutes.
  6. While the eggplant is cooking: in a small bowl, combine the crumbled cheese, capers, onion, tomatoes, mint, vinegar, and the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil.*
  7. Serve each slice of eggplant with a scoop of the tomato salad on top of each round. Serve immediately.

Notes and Tips!:

  • Yield: Makes about 4 appetizer/salad portions, assuming people will eat two rounds each.
  • Feel free to season the tomato mixture more as desired- adding salt, crushed black pepper, more vinegar, oregano, parsley, etc.
  • The original recipe calls for ricotta salata, however I used goat cheese because it’s what I had in the house and found it to be delicious.
  • Tip: In order to save left overs for another time, store the tomato salad and eggplant in separate sealed containers in the refrigerator. This will work best if the eggplant has not yet been coated with the tomato mixture. Thus, only serve up the eggplant rounds based on what is called for originally. You can always serve a second round with more tomato mixture, or allow for people to top their own eggplant slices as desired.
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen