March is the worst food month of the year. Nothing has been growing locally for at least three months, and the prospect of anything even remotely fresh is long gone. The farmers at the market are selling what’s left of their apples that have been in storage since November, and anything else has been shipped from thousands of miles away. Recently I opened my produce bin and found this sorry state:
Two cherry tomatoes, an onion and half a lemon. Ouch.
Despite the slim pickins, I was hungry, and determined to make something. So I did my best Top Chef impression and attempted to make something edible with whatever I could find in my kitchen. I grabbed the onion and scrounged a few other random ingredients…
A garlic bulb from last fall, some honey that had crystalized, an open bottle of wine, and Greek yogurt dangerously close to becoming cottage cheese. What could go wrong?
I envisioned some kind of dip, but really had no idea how to get there. But I forged ahead, and against all odds, the end result was… well, pretty delicious. So good, in fact, that we served it to guests, and they ate the whole thing and asked for the recipe. (Nevermind that it looked like a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. You don’t have to be beautiful to be wonderful.)
Here’s how it went down:
Chop the onion, throw it in a pan with a little olive oil & butter…
And cook it low & slow until it starts to look like this…
Then add the garlic, honey, wine & thyme, and keep on cooking until the onions get really brown and gooey…
Remember: Low and slow. Do not be tempted to crank the heat to speed up the cooking — you’ll end up with burned bits. (I, of course, have never done this. We won’t mention that charred thing stuck to the upper left side of the pan… or the other charred things now in the trashcan.)
Give yourself extra credit if you had to dig through six inches of snow to get to your thyme.
Thyme is the superhero of herbs. This guy sat under six inches of snow for three weeks, and was ready and waiting when I dug him out for this recipe. Thanks, little buddy.
Last, let the onion mixture cool, then dice it up and stir in some Greek yogurt & sea salt, and voila, Caramelized Onion Dip. It’s tangy, sweet & savory, and healthy to boot. Buen provecho!*
Don’t be scared off by its cream-of-mushroom-soup appearance… this is definitely an instance where looks are deceiving. For a better presentation, you could sprinkle some fresh thyme, chives or scallions on top. Or just close your eyes.
Caramelized Onion Dip
Olive Oil and/or Butter
White Wine (whatever kind you’d drink — I use Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
Chop your onion and put it into a pan with a little olive oil & butter. Cook it over a low heat until the onions start to soften and brown. Add diced garlic, a couple spoonfuls of honey, about half a cup of wine, chopped thyme, and a dash of salt. Keep cooking low and slow until the mixture is dark brown and gooey. Careful not to let it burn. Remove it from the pan and let it cool, then chop it up and mix in about a cup of Greek Yogurt (or as much as you’d like for your desired consistency). Serve it with pita chips or whatever chip you have on hand. Eat. Love.
* Buen Provecho: This is a beautiful saying we learned in Ecuador when we were adopting our son. There’s not a good literal translation from Spanish to English, because the loose translation — “Enjoy your meal” — doesn’t capture the full essence of the Spanish meaning. The verb “aprovechar” means to make the most of, or to receive the full benefit of something. Thus, when we say, “buen provecho,” it is offering our hope that the eater will receive the full benefits of the food we’ve prepared. And that’s my wish for my friends and family when I cook for them — that they will receive all the goodness the food offers.
** You’ll see that I often don’t designate specific quantities and measurements in my recipes. I do this because you know better than I do how much food your family needs and what your tastes are. Cooking isn’t an exact science, anyway — it’s more of an art. (Baking is another story — it actually is science — so I include measurements for my baking recipes.) So use whatever quantity you’d like, make changes to suit your tastes, and substitute ingredients to reflect what’s fresh in the garden and what’s available in your kitchen.