This post is for all you onion enthusiasts out there. Not for the ones who like their onions raw and crunchy and full of bite. But for those who like their onions caramelized and meltingly soft, sweeter than you could ever imagine an onion could be.
My friend Tessa and I have started a nerds’ cooking club … a club for total food nerds. Members: 2. Every few weeks she and I brainstorm an impossibly delicious recipe and gather ingredients. She comes over and we whip something up in my tiny apartment kitchen, then sit down and eat it, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, usually while planning what we want to make next time. This week, we were thinking about doing french onion soup but decided against it when I dreamed up this idea for a french-onion-soup-inspired panini. As it turned out, the panini didn’t end up tasting anything at all like french onion soup, but it just might be 1,000 times better.
The reasons why this panini is so delicious are many. One of the most significant reasons definitely has to be the goat cheese. Because one of the deep truths that governs our universe is that nothing made with goat cheese could ever be bad. The goat cheese redeems anything. But in this case, the sandwich is already good, and the goat cheese just takes it to a whole new level of awesome. Another great thing about this is the onions (of course!). Using a combination of sweet yellow and tangy red onions makes it much more interesting … plus red onions are insanely delicious caramelized.
Besides that, this panini has a lot of great contrasts. Crunchy bread and soft filling. Sweet onions and tangy cheese. And a drizzle of balsamic syrup that blends in just enough and stands out just enough. Also, it’s a really easy panini to make since it only has a few ingredients. Bread. Onions. Goat cheese. Balsamic vinegar. That’s about it.
Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Panini with Balsamic Drizzle (this will make about 4 sandwiches, but it depends on how much onion you put on each!)
Good sliced bread (We used French and foccaccia; use whatever you like)
A little butter
1 red onion
1 yellow onion
Olive oil, salt, & pepper
Balsamic vinegar (about 1/3 cup should be enough)
Plain goat cheese (chevre)
1. Thinly slice the onions and put them in a pan with olive oil, salt, & pepper. Cook over low to medium heat, turning/stirring from time to time, letting the onions slowly cook. Watch them so they don’t burn — but they should turn a beautiful golden-brown and soften while still holding their shape. The best way to know if they are done to perfection is to taste them! Just don’t eat the whole pan before you can get them onto a slice of bread. Be patient … it will be worth it. :)
2. Meanwhile, butter the outsides of the slices of bread. Preheat your panini press.
3. Also meanwhile, heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat with the lid off. All you are doing is getting it to simmer and evaporate so it will thicken. Once it’s reduced to about half, take it off the heat. Don’t let it get to the point of getting syrupy, because it thickens a lot once it cools. It may seem to runny when you take it off the heat, but once it cools it will be perfectly drizzle-able.
4. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese on one side of a slice of bread (the other side should be buttered). Top with a generous pile of caramelized onions and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Top with another slice of bread, buttered side out. Repeat to make 4 or so paninis. Cook on the panini press until browned and crisp. Enjoy!
I want to show you guys some pretty awesome food I’ve been making the last couple days. It all has goat cheese in it! Awesome, right? At least if you like goat cheese. WHICH I DO. (Case in point: I have a cookbook in my house right now which is devoted entirely to goat cheese.)
So the first thing I made (2 nights ago) was like a vegetable & goat cheese flatbread pizza thing. Kind of hard to explain. Here, maybe this mediocre photo will help:
It’s a flatbread spread with goat cheese and then topped with sauteed zucchini and portobello mushrooms, baked in the oven a few minutes to warm it up …. then topped with “spring mix” salad greens and a little more crumbled goat cheese, and drizzled with my current favorite lemon vinaigrette.
I had no idea how to eat this thing that my brain had created. I ended up cutting it into wedges and eating it like pizza. It was really, really good. And simple. Aaaaand, vegetarian!
Then tonight I made goat cheese salad.
There’s a story behind this one.
A couple of months ago Ben and I went to Uno’s, a restaurant which is surprisingly awesome since it is a chain. They had a new kind of salad which I tried and instantly became obsessed with. Field greens, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and lemon-basil vinaigrette = amaaaaazing!! Quite possibly the best salad I’ve ever had.
A few weeks later I found myself at Uno’s — again. Eating goat cheese salad — again. And I thought I owed it to myself and my budget to figure out how to make it on my own.
So all you need are “spring mix” salad greens, walnuts (candied if you want — or just toast them, they’re delish without the sugar too), plain goat cheese, and lemon vinaigrette (my recipe below).
I get my goat cheese at Trader Joe’s. For $6 you get a lot — the brand is Silver Goat. Although there are lots of tantalizing flavors, I usually buy the plain kind because it’s so versatile. This time I also picked up a package of dried “tart montmorency cherries” to try.
The salad is crazy easy to make. Just plop some salad greens in a bowl or on a plate, sprinkle with the toasted (or candied) walnuts and crumble plenty of the goat cheese on top. (Add the dried cherries or other dried fruit here if you’re doing that.) Then drizzle with the vinaigrette and you’re set to OM NOM NOM yourself into goat cheese bliss.
Now about the vinaigrette. I don’t know how close I am to Uno’s version, which is incredible, but this version is very good in my opinion. I got the original recipe from Martha Stewart, then made some changes. It’s definitely the best-tasting homemade vinaigrette I’ve been able to make so far.
1 tsp honey mustard (dijon mustard also works)
1-1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (sad to say I often skip this out of pure laziness)
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Dried or fresh oregano and basil to your taste
6 Tbsp olive oil
A tiny drizzle of honey — optional — if you want a bit more sweetness
Combine all together and shake/stir/whisk until thickened. If you whisk it well it comes together and makes a beautiful, creamy lemon-colored dressing.
And now, some sad news. Unfortunately, it is the time of year when my life is completely swallowed up in my job at summer camp. When I stop having time to make goat cheese salads and instead I eat camp food for three months. When I work approximately 80 hours a week and have absolutely no time for blogging — and “At Home With Bethany” become kind of irrelevant anyway since I’m practically never home.
So you may not see me on here very often for the next three months or so. If I’m able to drop in here from time to time with some pictures or something, then – hooray! But if not, then you will know what I am up to. And I will be back as soon as I can, with many things to share. Because there will be things going on. Someone I love very much is going to be turning 30 this summer (oh who could it beeeee??) and I hope to throw a great party for him. I’m also going to be diving into a total redesign of my living room (all 16 square feet of it, or whatever it is — hah) in the fall, and then there will be pictures from our planned vacation to Saugatuck, Michigan in August! So lots of good posts to look forward to writing (if you’re me) and reading (if you’re you).
So, see you around. For now I hope I’ve at least got you addicted to goat cheese. Hah. I’m devious like that!