Chef Paula DaSilva

What is better than a creamy luscious potato gratin?

A creamy luscious potato gratin baked in a sweet onion! 

That’s what young and talented Executive Chef Paula DaSilva brought to the menu at the chic new farm to table eatery 1500° located in the renovated historic hotel, Eden Roc Renaissance in Miami Beach. And, this week it’s my pleasue to introduce you to her. 

Chef DaSilva’s stuffed Sweet Onion Potato Gratin is one of the signature sides on her menu designed around farm fresh ingredients as well as steakhouse influences. “I work hard to keep the menu offerings at 1500° exciting but familiar and love serving a traditional dish in an unusual but approachable new way,” says DaSilva. “The gratin stuffed onion is so decadent and delicious, it just oozes when you cut into it. The guests love it.”

 

Stuffed Sweet Onion & Potato Gratin

From Executive Chef Paula DaSilva

1500° at Eden Roc – Miami, Florida

Yields 6

INGREDIENTS          WEIGHTS/MEASURES

Yukon potatoes  3

Cream  1 cup

Horseradish  1 tablespoon

Minced garlic  1 tablespoon

Gruyere cheese  1/2 cup, grated

Salt  to taste

Sweet yellow onions  6 medium, whole

Milk  2 cups

Bay leaves  2

Water

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper  to taste

METHOD:  Peel and thinly slice the potatoes.  Bake in a small covered dish with the cream, horseradish and garlic at 325 degrees F for about 25 minutes.  Remove the potatoes from the oven.  Mix in the cheese until melted and season with salt to taste.  Let the mixture cool and then refrigerate.

Place whole, unpeeled onions in a large pot.  Add milk, bay leaves, a bit of salt and enough water to cover everything.  Bring the mixture to a boil;  turn the onions down to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove onions from the heat and let them cool in the liquid. 

When cooled, remove onions from the milk.  Peel and core the onion from the bottom, leaving about 1/2-inch of onion all around.  Carefully stuff the onions with the potato gratin mixture.  Place the cut side down in a baking dish and season the onion on top with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Bake the onions in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes before serving.

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Say Cheese!

Today, I discovered April is National Grilled Cheese Month! Naturally, being a fan of the ooey gooey goodness of melting cheese I was spurred to share one of life’s BEST savory combinations ever. Betcha can’t guess what I’m going to say can you?! Yes, of course, onions and cheese!  Before you call me crazy, check out these two great panini’s from our recipe collection.  Then, be sure to take a look at the recipes we found lurking on the web and deemed celebration worthy.

Stuffed Panini with Sautéed Onions & Swiss Cheese

This is the budget-friendly way to create a tasty panini, even if you don’t have the fancy grill!

 Ingredients:

2 medium to large onions, peeled and trimmed

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

4 to 8 ounces sliced deli chicken or shredded leftover chicken

1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded and sliced or 1 large tomato, sliced

2 cups fresh spinach

4 seeded burger buns or other large round rolls

4 to 6 ounces sliced Swiss cheese

Dry crumbled basil, to taste (optional)

Slice onions into rings and sauté in oil over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until tender.  Layer chicken, bell pepper and spinach leaves evenly onto bottoms of the 4 buns.  Top each bun with sautéed onions, cheese and basil.  Close buns. Place one sandwich at a time into preheated Panini maker or other hinged contact grill (may fit two at a time with larger grill).  Grill 10 to 12 minutes or until golden, hot and melted. 

Note: if you don’t have a hinged grill, cook sandwiches over medium-low heat about 10 minutes in a preheated, oiled heavy skillet, with another skillet pressing down on top. Watch the top pan as the buns cook.  As the cheese melts the buns may slide and the top pan may need to be stabilized.  Makes 4 servings.

 

Spicy Onion Panini with Basil and Roasted Red Pepper

 Similar to the panini above, but dressed up!

Ingredients:

8 cups (2 quarts) yellow onion, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil   

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 ciabatta rolls     

Aioli (recipe follows)

1 cup basil leaves

1 cup roasted red pepper strips

8 ounces sharp white Cheddar, sliced

1/2 cup pitted Calamata olives, halved

2 ounces prosciutto or pancetta, in paper-thin slices (optional)

Directions:  Caramelize onions over low heat in oil about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden; mix in red pepper flakes.  Split ciabatta rolls and brush inside lightly with Aioli.  For each serving, layer bottom of roll with 1/4 cup basil leaves, then 3/4 cup caramelized onion, then 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, 2 ounces cheese and 2 tablespoons olives.  Add 1/2 ounce prosciutto if desired.  Close the rolls and brush with aioli.  Place each one in panini grill set at medium.  Slowly close lid (somewhat flattening sandwich inside) and grill 15 minutes or until golden and melted.  Makes 4 servings.

Aioli:  Combine in electric blender 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 2 medium cloves garlic and a dash of salt.  Process until blended and slightly thickened.  Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Makes about 1/2 cup.

The following recipes were just a few of the great ideas we found lurking on the web.  We’re sure you’ll be inspired to get into the kitchen to make your own savory-cheesey-be-gooey creation.

Julia Child’s Grilled Onion Sandwich

“Inside-Out” Grilled Cheese with Red Onion Jam

Grilled Cheese Onion Sandwich

French Onion Grilled Cheese

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A Cartoon About Onions!

I am so excited I could hardly wait to write this post! I just discovered an old cartoon about onions and it’s absolutely adorable!  According to contributors of the blog Classic Cartoons, “The Tears of an Onion” is a Fleischer Color Classic released in 1938. This cartoon is notable for several reasons. One, it’s the only Color Classic still protected by copyright and because of that, it couldn’t be included on “Somewhere in Dreamland” DVD collection, and two, it is relatively rare and unknown to many classic cartoon fans.  You can read the entire post and see the screenshots of this rare cartoon (including the original Paramount opening and closing titles) here http://bit.ly/dFmagv.

On that note, how about a snack?  This one is tasty, quick to make and versatile. For example, use pesto instead of pizza sauce and add a few slices of canadian bacon . . . Yummy x’s 10!

Crusty Onion Bruschetta

Ingredients:

1  French bread baguette (about 8 ounces)

4 ounces light cream cheese

1/2 cup nonfat or low fat ricotta cheese

2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 cup pizza sauce, canned

1 medium onion, cut into paper-thin wedges

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Parsley (fresh or dried optional)

Directions:  Split bread in half lengthwise.  Pull out some bread from center of each half, leaving a 1/2-inch shell.  Beat cheeses and herbs with fork and spread mixture along length of both bread halves.  Place a ribbon of pizza sauce and a single layer of onions over cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake on baking sheet at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until onion is tender and tips are slightly blackened, but crust is not too dark.  Sprinkle with parsley if desired.  Cut crosswise into narrow strips.  Makes 8 servings.

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Onion Skins In the Bin!

Have you gone to the store to find onions swimming in a debris of their own skins?  Yes, I’m afraid it’s that time of year, but never fear . . . spring is very near!

If you’ve asked why so many skins in the bin, here’s your answer.  Storage type onions, as they near the end of the season, shrink ever so slightly.  This slight loss of moisture can cause the shedding of a layer or two of their papery skins.  As we near the end of the storage season, you can expect to see a few extra skins in the onion bin at your grocery store and at home.

On the upside, skins in the onion bin signal Spring’s arrival.  Growers in Texas have reved up their harvest equipment and are working hard to bring you the spring crop of onions!  Georgia, California, and Arizona will be getting geared up for harvest this month as well.  So, what will you do with your first  purchase of the new crop?  Will you make a crisp, refreshing salad full of juicy onion or will you cut up some thick slices for your first burger of the season, hot off the grill? 

Here at onion headquarters, my co-workers have voted for a thick juicy slice on a burger.  Let us know what your plans are, we’d love to hear from you.

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Happy Birthday Onionista!

The Onionista celebrates her first blog-birthday or anniversary March 2, 2011.  Help her celebrate by trying this fun new recipe!

Here’s to you Onionista!

Chilled Mango-Caramelized Onion Soup with Shrimp

Chilled soup is the perfect toast!

Ingredients:
3 cups sliced onion (12 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups mango pulp
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Sour cream
Fresh dill weed
2 ounces small cooked shelled shrimp

Directions:  Sauté onions gently in oil until tender and sweet, about 15 minutes.  Set aside 1/3 cup onion for topping.  Turn remaining onion into electric blender along with mango, broth, coconut milk, chopped fresh dill and pepper.  Process until pureed.  Chill.  Serve in wide-rimmed bowls or stemmed glasses with a dollop of sour cream in center of each.  Curl the reserved onion over the sour cream and garnish each with fresh dill and small kabob of shrimp.   Makes 1 quart, 4 to 6 servings.

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Onions to Move an Army

One of my favorite onion quotes is rooted in American history.  It goes like this.  In 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant declared in an advisory to the federal government, “I will not move my army without onions!” 

Likewise, General Robert E. Lee complained the Confederate congress was unable “to do anything except eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving….” 

Fortunately for Grant and the troops, his demand was met.  Immediately, Grant was sent three traincar-loads of the flavorful bulbs which were appreciated by soldiers for both their flavor and antiseptic properties when used to treat powder burns. 

When I learned about this interesting fact, it broght to light just how difficult it was to get food to the military camps.   Food perservation was in it’s infancy. 

It was Napoleon who first stated that an army marches on its stomach, an idea that has been repeated frequently during times of war as recently as Desert Storm.  In fact, Napoleon was so firm in his belief he offered a heafty prize to anyone who discovered a way to get better food to the French army.  Nicholas Appert, a confectioner, won the prize  in 1795 by discovering the process of hermetically sealing food. In 1810 a patent was taken out in England for Appert’s method, and soon the idea spread to America, where lobster and salmon were the first foods canned.  

In 1823 an American, Thomas Kensett, invented the tin can. By the late 1860’s many foods were being canned.  In fact, during the civil war the Northern army used this to their military advantage.  Unfortunately, The South experienced major food shortages and the Civil War marched on slowly.  Source: www.foodhistory.com 

When your army of hungry folks come marching in the door, here’s a great recipe to fill them up, even on a budget! 

Italian Pork and Onion Pasta

Fit for an army, this flavorful dish can be prepared on a budget, with time to spare.

Ingredients: 
1-1/4    pounds pork loin sirloin chops or pork shoulder blade steaks
2          teaspoons oregano and ground cumin
2          tablespoons olive oil
1          medium onion (10 ounces), cut into narrow wedges
1          can (14 1/2 ounces) Italian recipe stewed tomatoes
1          package (9 ounce) fresh linguini or fettuccini pasta
Grated Parmesan and fresh minced or dried herbs like oregano or marjoram

Directions:  Trim fat from the chops or blade steaks.  Trim the meat from bones, and cut into small cubes.  Dust pork with oregano and cumin.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and pork and sauté until cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add tomatoes and heat.  Cook linguine in boiling water about 2 minutes or as package directs.  Drain and serve with pork-onion sauce on top. Sprinkle with cheese and herbs.  Makes 4 servings.

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Secret Chocolate Cake

Okay, I admit that chocolate is usually paired with fruit so when you talk about onions and chocolate together, it might seem unusual.  But seriously, you really should try Caramelized Secret Chocolate Cake with caramelized onions.  The first time I tried it I couldn’t believe how moist and deliciously chocolaty it tasted.  I admit, I am not a huge chocolate lover, but my hubbie sure is and we both really enjoyed this cake.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s on the request list for Valentine’s Day dinner!

Caramelized Secret Chocolate Cake

 Ingredients: 

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar
Chocolate Frosting (I prefer the Ganache Frosting from Epicurious below)

Directions:  Melt chocolate in saucepan, stirring over low heat, or in microwave oven. Caramelize onion by sautéing over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes in 2 tablespoons oil in skillet until soft. In large bowl, beat remaining oil with sugar, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly mixed and fluffy, about 2 or 3 minutes. Beat in warm melted chocolate and caramelized onions. Mix flour with baking soda and salt; stir into batter alternately with milk. Divide batter evenly into 2 well-greased and floured 8-inch round layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until a pick inserted into center comes out dry. Cool 15 minutes then invert onto wire racks to thoroughly cool. Spread on icing.  Makes 12 servings.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting (from Epicurious)

Ingredients: 

1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate (Callebaut)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Directions:  Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.  Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).  Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides.

Tip:  Cake will have the best flavor and texture the first day. Refrigerate after the first day.  Onion flavor will start to come through as cake stands for 2 to 3 days.

For those of you who are true blue chocoloate lovers or chocoholics I recommend checking out this great blog http://michaelinhiskitchen.blogspot.com.  Michael has some wonderful recipes for you to try and great information about chocolate!

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Super Dips for Super Bowl Weekend!

In honor of the smash-off this weekend between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, I thought "Hey, what could be more appropriate for a Super Bowl party than some really hip salsa and dip!?"  Since, I didn't have a better come back answer, here are a few of my favs to make your party dance right into the end zone with the winning team!    

Grilled Onion Salsa     

Grilled onions add the perfect smokey flavor to salsa

Ingredients:       

2 large onions, sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped 
1/4 cup seeded jalapeno peppers, chopped 
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped 
1 teaspoon cumin seeds 
fresh squeezed lime juice 
salt    

Directions: 

Grill the onion slices. Coarsely chop the grilled rings and mix with the chopped tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and cumin seeds. Season with salt and fresh lime juice.  Makes about 3-1/2 cups.       

  

Ina Garten’s Caramelized Onion Dip  

This dip is best when made the day before it’s to be eaten so the flavors really deepen.  I love to serve this dip with salt and pepper flavored kettle chips!  

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
  

Directions:
Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch-thick half-rounds.  (Yielding about 3 cups of onions) Heat the oil and the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat (it works better to NOT use a non-stick pan).  Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for 20-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, but not too often or until the onions are browned and caramelized.  Add the Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes.  Allow the onions to cool.  Note the onions will be really dark because of the balsamic vinegar.        

In a large bowl combine the cream cheese, sour cream and the mayonnaise.  Whisk until smooth.  Add all of the onions, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish, into the cream cheese mixture.  Stir to combine and mix well.  Transfer to a serving dish and top with reserved onions.  Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to combine.  Serve at room temperature with potato chips.   Makes 2 cups.    

Spicy Onion Jam from EatingWell       

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Ingredients:
2-4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and broken into pieces
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced (see Kitchen Tip)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt  

Directions:
Any type of onion will work for this chile-and-pomegranate-infused jam. Spread crostini with goat cheese and top with the spicy-sweet jam for a quick appetizer or tuck some into a steak taco. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, use the full amount of ancho chiles.  

Place chiles in a small dry saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add pomegranate juice and bring to a boil; cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.   

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add onions and cook until very soft and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium; add the chile puree and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in salt.  Makes 2 cups.

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Do You Know The Beatles – Onion Connection?

Do you know what the connection is between The Beatles and onions?  Before you read the rest of this post, see if you can guess what the answer is.  Got your answer yet?  Read ahead now to see if you have the righ answer OR if you are stumped, to get the answer.

On November 25, 1968 the Beatles released their ninth album.  Commonly refered to as “The White Album”, the official title of the album is actually “The Beatles”.  Released as a double album, “The White Album” was the first release for The Beatles following the death of their manager Brian Epstein and the first to be released under their own record label “Apple”.  Known for being an ecletic mix of music this album included a song titled “Glass Onion”.  As Paul Harvey would say, “And know you know the rest of the story.”

For those of you who enjoy trivia, our website has lots of  interesting onion triva to check out.  Enjoy!

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Cholesterol, Prostate Cancer, and Aging

What do onions, cholesterol, prostate cancer, and getting older have in common?  Lots!  And after a lengthy hiatus, the Onionista is back and ready to shed some light on these topics.

Properties of onion in relationship to cholesterol   –   The organosulfur compounds found in onions have been linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.  Several recent studies about onions and cardiovascular health are highlighted in the National Onion Association’s white paper titled “Onion Health Summary” and the associations research compendium “Onions-Phytochemical and Health Properties”.

Properties of onion in relationship to prostate cancer  –   According to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2002;94:1648–51), men who eat garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives (vegetables of the Allium family) as a part of a healthy diet may reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer.  Men who consumed more than 10 grams per day of Allium vegetables had almost a 50% reduction in risk of developing prostate cancer, compared with those who consumed less than 2.2 grams per day. Men with the most pronounced reduction in prostate cancer risk were those with the highest consumption of garlic and scallions, cousins to the onion.

Properties of onion in relation to aging   –   With age, men and women are often faced osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, obesity, and cancer.  Several scientific studies have shown in plant and animal studies how onions rich source of phytonutrients and antioxidants have a positive effect on combating or reducing the risk of having these diseases.

Now, I know this is a lot of health related information to absorb and by no means am I suggesting onions will prevent prostate cancer, high cholesterol or certain age related diseases.  What I would like to impress upon you is the role onion plays in improving our well-being when part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

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