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The onion is an ancient vegetable thought to have come from Central Asia and has been grown for more than 5,000 years in Egypt, 2,000 years in Italy and more widely in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Because relatives of the onion are found all over the world, it is likely that the onion has been a common ingredient of the cuisines of the world from the time before humans wrote, perhaps even before they spoke.
In its long and robust life, the onion has found many champions. Greek physicians around 60 AD prescribed onions for eating, as well as for medicinal reasons. Richard II, King of England, had many recipes using onions in his 1390 “cookbook.”
Some ancient cultures raised the onion to symbolic heights. The Romans considered the concentric rings of cut onions and globe shape of uncut ones symbolic of eternity. The Egyptians painted or carved onion shapes on monuments and in tombs to depict their use as funeral offerings. And, lastly, Greek and Phoenician sailors carried onions on board their ships; the high content of Vitamin C came in handy when preventing scurvy.
Worldwide, more onions are consumed than any other vegetable, and I know they’re always coming home with me from the grocery store as they are a pantry staple and I always have to have some on hand.
When storing onions, it’s important to keep them away from any moisture, so it’s best to store them in a basket or mesh bag so air can circulate through. Don’t store onions in plastic — they hate that — and for sure keep them away from potatoes or other items that can release moisture. Both will spoil sooner when they’re close to each other.
Now about this tart. It’s super easy to prepare, and oh mercy, does it ever taste good. The pre-rolled sheets of puff pastry really are a genius invention, though the size of the sheets will vary from brand to brand. You may have to make one large tart like I did, or two smaller ones depending on what brand you can find. A good slather of Dijon mustard on the base adds a welcome bit of savoury counterpoint to the sweetness of the caramelized onions.
I love how the onions complement rather than overwhelm this dish, and it’s quite lovely to see them sink in the pools of melted cheese. Rosemary adds an aromatic earthiness that is well suited for this type of tart, this time of year. If you want to add in some chopped cooked bacon, I certainly won’t stop you.
I quite like serving this little tart when I’m entertaining over the holidays as it uses up random bits and bobs of cheese leftover from cheese boards and the like. I used some sharp cheddar, brie and goat cheese, but honestly any cheese will do.
The tart bakes up all gorgeous and it really is quite fun to pull out from the oven and others gasp when they see it. Get prepared for that. I’ve served wedges with salad for a lighter lunch, or you can cut it into smaller pieces and serve as an appetizer for a party. It’s a versatile little tart, this. However you serve it, I know you’re going to love it.
Three Cheese Onion Tart
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups sliced sweet onions
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator (sheet measures 12×14-inches)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sliced brie
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1. Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil. When it is warm, add the onions. Stir so they are evenly coated. Cook for about 10 minutes, until they start to wilt and begin to brown. Stir in the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low. Let the onions cook down and caramelize, which takes about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the onions have caramelized, let them rest for about 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the sheet of puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the pastry with a fork. Spread the mustard evenly over the pastry. Scatter the cheddar cheese over the mustard. Evenly distribute the onions, spreading them all the way to the edge of the pastry. Top the onions with the brie and goat cheese. Sprinkle with rosemary.
3. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is deeply golden. Remove from the oven and wait 5 minutes before serving. Slice into wedges.
Makes 4-8 servings, depending on how big you slice it.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020