Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apple & Cipollini Relish

Occasionally I teach classes that are devoted to one vegetable (or fruit) or to a small group of vegetables (or fruits):  Asparagus in the Spring...  Eggplant, peppers & summer squash in late summer...  Corn & zucchini in the middle of summer...  And this past week, apples.  Three of the recipes from this particular class have already made an appearance on my blog: Celery Root & Apple Soup...Autumn Salad of Shaved Fennel, Apples & Belgian Endive...and a simple Pork Chop Baked with Apples & Mustard.   Today I thought I would share another:  Apple & Cipollini Onion Relish.

If you have never cooked with—or tasted—cipollini onions (pronounced chip-oh-lee-nee), you should definitely give them a try.  A small, flat, round Italian onion, they are beautiful to look at and they have a mild, sweet flavor—perfect for adding to a medley of roasted or sautéed vegetables or a braise or a stew.  Peeling them is a little bit time consuming, but it can always be done ahead.  Also, it's a fairly mindless activity and could be done while you are watching TV or chatting on the phone with a friend. 

This is not the first time I have shared a recipe that uses cipollinis.  A couple of years ago I posted a recipe for a favorite chicken dish that included some.  In that post I described a simple method for peeling that involves soaking the onions (after the root has been trimmed away) in a bowl of warm water.  This softens the skins so they can be easily removed.  In the relish recipe I'm sharing today, I'm giving a different method—one that calls for boiling the onions for a minute or two before peeling them.  The advantage of this is that it jump starts the cooking process.  The cipollinis in my relish recipe are cooked by braising in white wine.  My understanding is that the acidity of the unreduced wine firms up the cell structure of the onions...consequently they take much longer to cook than they would in plain water or broth.  Blanching them before the braising process helps to reduce the cooking time a bit.

If you have never made a savory relish before, I would like to encourage you to make this one—it's a great place to start.  Other than the peeling of the onions, it is an uncomplicated recipe with clean, straight forward and friendly flavors.  It's an easy relish to like (and was very well-received by my class).  It is especially delicious with pork and would also make a nice accompaniment to turkey during the upcoming holidays.   Even if you aren't ready to think about winter roasts or the holidays yet (I'm not), you'll find that this relish is delicious served with cheese as an appetizer or part of a cheese course.  Right now—while we are in the height of apple season...and the very beginning of cipollini season—would be a great time to give it a try.   


Apple & Cipollini Onion Relish

2 to 3 T. olive oil
3 small sprigs of rosemary
1 1/2 lb. cipollini onions—preferably about the size of a quarter in diameter
1 1/2 T. sugar (or to taste)
1 1/2 c. dry white wine

1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 T. unsalted butter
3 medium Braeburn apples (or other sweet tart variety that holds its shape when cooked), peeled, cored, cut into 12 wedges, wedges halved horizontally
1 to 2 T. picked thyme

2 T. Balsamic vinegar

Peel the Cipollini onions: Trim the root flush with each onion.  Drop them into a pot of rapidly boiling salted water.  Boil for 1 to 2 minutes.  Lift out and let drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.  Pull off the softened skins (you will probably need to use the tip of a paring knife).  Any onions that are very large should be halved crosswise (or quartered)—although cipollinis that have been halved or quartered will fall apart during the cooking process.  The onions can be peeled a day or two ahead.  Cool, wrap well and store in the refrigerator.

Put the olive oil and rosemary springs in a braiser or straight sided sauté pan (choose a pan large enough to hold the onions in a snug single layer) and warm over medium to medium high heat allowing the rosemary to infuse the oil for a minute or two.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown in spots—5 minutes or so. 

After the onions have begun to brown, add some salt and sprinkle the sugar over all.  Allow the sugar to caramelize, stirring, or gently shaking the pan, occasionally.  Add the wine and bring to a simmer.  

Cover and simmer (regulating the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer) until the onions are tender through—their color will change from white to a translucent beige.

While the onions cook, sauté the apples.  Heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick pan over high heat.  Add the apples.  Toss or stir the apples when the first side begins to brown.  As the apples begin to brown all over, reduce the heat to medium or medium high.  Add the thyme and some salt.  

Continue to toss and cook until tender, but not falling apart.  Set aside.  (Note: if your pan is not large enough to hold the apples in a snug single layer, sauté the apples in batches, dividing the oil and butter accordingly.)

When the onions are tender (this will take as long as an an hour and a two hours, depending on the age of the onions and how long they are blanched during the peeling process), uncover the pan and increase the heat to boil and rapidly reduce the remaining wine to a syrup.  Add the Balsamic vinegar and reduce to a syrup.

Remove from the heat and fold in the apples, correcting the seasoning with salt, pepper, sugar and/or balsamic vinegar as necessary.  The compote tastes best if made ahead so the flavors have time to develop.    Reheat gently before serving.

Makes 3 cups—enough to serve 10 generously as an accompaniment to turkey or a pork roast.

Printable Recipe

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