Vidalia onions (and other sweet onion varieties) are grown in low-sulfur soils, and that makes them much lower in pyruvic acid—the stuff that makes onions punchy. And while a raw Vidalia is apple-mild, a little char lends a ton of flavor. This recipe riffs on an old French culinary trick—the oignon brûlé—a charred, halved onion used to add depth to broths and stocks. The onions here are peeled and cut into thick slabs. You char only one side of the onion to get all the glory and crunch of raw onion, with a penetrating, almost fire-cooked flavor.
The dressing is a simple emulsion of feta, garlic, lemon, chile, and olive oil—and asks for a mini food processor. Don't worry if you don't have one, though, as the ingredients can just as well be minced. And while the dressing is a bit more elegant as an emulsion, a simple fork-stir is fine, too. Nutty, dry-cooked garbanzos will leave you satisfied. Serve with sautéed chicken breasts to round out the meal.
Keith's Recipe Breakdown
SKILLET-CHARRED VIDALIA ONION SALADHands-on: 10 min. Total: 15 min.Make sure to have your stove's hood vent cranking–the onion will give off smoke as it chars. A hit of floral fresh oregano provides the perfect top note for the salad's Mediterranean flavors.
Follow These Steps:
• To make the dressing, combine feta, garlic, lemon juice, and chile in a mini food processor. Process until smooth. If necessary, add a tablespoon hot water to thin.
• Add oil to the processor; process for about 30 seconds or until the dressing is silky smooth. Set aside.
• Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; coat pan with cooking spray.
• Place onion in skillet in 1 even layer. Press each slab to ensure full contact with pan. Season onions evenly with salt.
• Cook, without turning, 4 minutes or until onion slabs are moderately charred. Transfer onion to a large bowl.
• Leaving the pan on the heat, add chickpeas; cook 3 minutes or until lightly charred. Add to onion.
• Separate onion slabs into rings. Add oregano and dressing.
• Toss until well dressed.
VARIATION: LAMB AND TURKEY VIDALIA SALADSauté 4 ounces ground lamb and 4 ounces ground turkey 5 minutes or until done. Drain well. Toss with 4 cups baby spinach, 2 additional tablespoons lemon juice, another teaspoon oregano, and an additional ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Fold mixture into onion salad.
SERVES 4 (serving size: about 1 cup)CALORIES 281; FAT 14.9g (sat 4.4g); SODIUM 437mg
For more cooking tips and kitchen science secrets, check out James Beard Award-Winning MAD DELICIOUS: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!