Vegetables can look beautiful, but too often we rush their preparation and turn out a version of grey mush. London chef-restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi treats vegetables with respect. Big pans of his favourites double as works of visual art.
In his 10 establishments, the cutting of vegetables is important. An essay in his new book Ottolenghi Flavor (Appetite by Random House, $45) explains how cutting up onions releases the “volatile compounds within the onion.”
Ottolenghi’s book offers more than 100 recipes, some requiring extensive specialty shopping, others as simple as this onion dish. Miso is one of his favourite additions. This recipe uses miso paste; also called soybean paste, it is sold in Asian specialty stores, some supermarkets, and may be found in the refrigerated sections of health food stores.
Miso Butter Onions
8 small onions or large shallots
7 tablespoons (100 mL) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (125 mL) plus 1 tablespoon (15 mL) miso paste
4 cups (1 L) warm water
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (240 C). Cut onions in half lengthwise, discarding papery skins and any tough, dry underskin. Trim tops and a little off the bottom, but not so much you damage the base.
In a medium bowl, combine melted butter, miso and warm water.
Arrange onion halves, cut-side down, in a high-sided baking dish (9 by 13 inches / 23 by 33 cm). The pan should be the size just to accommodate the onions about one inch (2.5 cm) apart.
Pour in the miso mixture. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes.
Remove foil and turn onions cut-side up. Baste with miso mixture, then return to oven, uncovered, for another 45 to 50 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until onions are very soft, deeply browned on top, and the sauce has thickened.
Transfer onions to a heated platter, pour sauce over, and serve at once.
Six O’Clock Solution: From the Downton Abbey kitchen to your holiday plate
Six O’Clock Solution: Curry is quickly seasoned, quick to cook
Six O’Clock Solution: Meatballs take a long, easy bake in tomato sauce