More than Meets the Eye

Onions play a supporting role in most dishes. Here, Béatrice Peltre puts their incredible flavor front and center.

Photograph by Béatrice Peltre

Few ingredients undergo such a radical transformation when cooked as onions. Who would think something pungent enough to set your eyeballs on fire can, with the application of a little heat, become so sweet, subtle, and rich?

My favorite season to cook with onions is in springtime when you can get them fresh. Fresh onions are a little milder than their dried counterparts because the drying process concentrates heir flavor. Regardless of which variety you use, onions are a flavor powerhouse. They can form the base for a hearty soup or stew, they can shine as the star of a dish, or they can be used sparingly as a garnish, adding zing to any meal. Few ingredients show up so often, in so many different ways, across such a vast range of cuisines, as the onion. Like Julia Child said, “It is hard to imagine a civilization without onions.”

For my recipe this issue, I wanted to celebrate the onion in all its complexity. This onion and ricotta tart with dill and Parmesan showcases the bold, earthy, and sweet flavor of onion by pairing it with an ingredient that mirrors each of those characteristics. The ricotta is sweet and rich, the Parmesan is bold and sharp, and the dill is earthy. Sprinkle some fresh greens on top, and you’ve got a balanced and delicious meal. À votre santé et bon appétit.

Onion and Ricotta Tart with Dill and Parmesan

Makes a 12-inch tart
Butter for the tart mold
1 12-inch pie crust of your choice
½ cup aged balsamic vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup cane sugar
4 stems of fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 bunch fresh white onions, bulbs only (5 ounces), finely sliced with a mandoline
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon dill, chopped + more to serve
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Shaved Parmesan, to serve
Mixed salad greens or arugula, to serve
Olive oil, to drizzle

Butter a 12-inch tart mold. Roll the crust and garnish the mold with it. Make small holes with a fork at the bottom; set aside in the fridge. In a pot, combine the balsamic vinegar, water, sugar, cilantro, and sea salt. Bring to a simmer. Add the sliced onions and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool for an hour. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a bowl, beat the egg with the ricotta, dill, and grated Parmesan, and season with pepper. Take the tart out of the fridge and garnish with the ricotta mixture. Top with the onions without the juice or cilantro stems) and cook the tart for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with chopped dill and shaved Parmesan. Top with mixed greens or arugula drizzled with olive oil.