Our end-of-the-week recipe comes from Dana Jacobi, author of the 12 Best Foods Cookbook and a contributor to the American Institute for Cancer Research’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
“My grandmother made fruit compote by soaking dried apricots, figs and dried plums (or, as we used to call them, prunes) in apple juice and cooking them until the fruit was spoon-tender,” she says. “When she lived with us, she made everyone eat a bowl of this compote every morning. I hated the mushy texture of the cooked fruit, but I loved its sweetness. So, when chefs started making savory onion compotes to accompany meats and poultry during the 1980s (part of the renaissance of fine cooking that swept America back then), I paid attention.
“In this popular dish, also called onion marmalade or onion jam, the onions are cooked with butter or oil until they collapse and start to taste pleasantly sweet,” Jacobi continues. “This happens because long, gentle cooking caramelizes the natural sugar that onions contain. A bit of sugar is usually added just after the onions wilt to help get the caramelization process started, along with some red wine vinegar. The vinegar can be plain or flavored with raspberries, blueberries or another agent. I like using balsamic because of its complex flavor and the lovely, dark, burnished color it bestows.
“Next, some liquid is added (this can be water, juice, broth, wine or any combination) to stew the onions slowly and gently until they melt in the mouth. Finally come the gourmet touches. Depending on the season and what your onion compote will accompany, you can use herbs like rosemary, thyme or oregano, which go well with beef and dress up hamburgers nicely. Or you could make a white compote that goes well with chicken, using white wine vinegar and tarragon. During the summer, I like adding blueberries, fresh or frozen, to make this version, which is good with pork and poultry.”
All of the ingredients should be available at your local natural and organic food store.
Blueberry & Red Onion Compote
Makes 2 cups (6 servings)
1 tablespoon unsalted sweet butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large red onions, halved vertically, and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
In a heavy, deep saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Stir in the onions. Cook until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Mix in the sugar and vinegar. Cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of water and the salt. Cook until most of the water has evaporated and the onions are simmering in thick, bubbly syrup, about 25 minutes.
Add the blueberries. Cook further until the compote thickens to the consistency of jam, about 20 minutes.
Cool to room temperature before serving. This compote keeps up to two weeks, tightly covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe and photo courtesy of the 12 Best Foods Cookbook