Yesterday marked the official start of Vidalia onion season.
According to the Vidalia Onion Committee, this year’s sweet onion crop looks like it will be a good one. Last year, higher-than-normal temperatures and downy mildew kept yields down to about one-third of the normal amount.
More than 12,000 acres of Vidalia onions will be harvested this season in a 20-county area.
To mark the start of the onion bounty, chef Kevin Gillespie, a member of the Chefs Advisory Board for the Vidalia Onion Committee, has offered up a recipe from his new cookbook “Fire in My Belly.”
Savory Fig Tart with Vidalia Onions
(from Kevin Gillespie’s “Fire in My Belly”)
Enough for 6 appetizers or 20 hors d’oeuvres
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Peel the Vidalia onion and cut in half lengthwise through the root and stem ends. Trim and discard the stem and roots. Slice the onion lengthwise into thin strips. Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and swirl until it melts and starts to foam. Drop in the onions, sprinkle with a Kevin pinch of salt (about 1 teaspoon), and shake to spread out the onions. Cut the heat down to medium-low and cook until the onions are golden brown, about 40 minutes, stirring now and then. Line a plate with a double layer of paper towels and drain the onions on the towels.
3. Roll the pastry sheet to a 17 by 11-inch rectangle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the pastry on the parchment. Using a fork, poke holes evenly throughout the top of the pastry (called docking) to prevent it from puffing up. Top the dough with a sheet of parchment paper and top that with an empty baking sheet, which will weigh it down and further ensure that the pastry doesn’t puff; it also helps the pastry to brown evenly. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and parchment paper from the top of the pastry and return to the oven until golden brown and crispy, another 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Trim the stems from the figs and discard. Slice the figs into 1/4-inch rounds and place in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and cook over low heat, stirring now and then, until the figs begin to release their juices and the sugar starts to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and a pinch of salt and pull from the heat.
5. Just before serving, spread the cheese in an even layer on the puff pastry, spread the Vidalia onions on the cheese and top with the figs. In a small bowl, toss a handful of arugula with just a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the arugula over the figs and crack a nice grind of black pepper over the top. Cut into larger rectangles or bite-size squares.
6. To bump this up a bit, thinly shred the prosciutto, crisp it in a hot skillet and sprinkle over the top.
-Look for all-butter puff pastry from brands like Dufour in the freezer section of your supermarket.
-If you can’t find fromage blanc at your market, mix together 3 ounces goat cheese and 3 tablespoons sour cream. Or mix together 3 ounces cream cheese (1 small block) and 1/3 cup plain Greek-style yogurt. You’re looking for tanginess in the fromage blanc.
–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog