Yes, that's a salad. Not a dahlia turned up to face the sun or a Marimekko tablecloth. But as much as this striking recipe from Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich's newest cookbook, Chasing Smoke, will turn heads, the most surprising thing about it may be how utterly simple it is to make.
A few more tips: Sarit and Itamar say this recipe works just as well with other types of onions—the red ones are just prettier. And you can take this idea and run with it to scoop up other delicious things into your mouth: Sarit suggested baba ghanoush; Itamar brought up blue cheese dip. No forks and knives, please—the onions are all the utensil you need (and will leave you a free hand to hold your beer). Finally, feel free to make it ahead and serve it at room temperature.
Please note: On October 20, 2021, there was a CDC food safety alert on onions distributed from Chihuahua, Mexico, on August 27, 2021—please double-check the origins of any onions you source for this recipe (and compost any old ones in your pantry that are suspect). For more information, head here.
Recipe adapted very slightly from Chasing Smoke: Cooking over Fire Around the Levant (Pavillion, May 2021).
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Hear more about this recipe from Sarit and Itamar themselves, on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes. —Genius Recipes
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- Serves 6 to 8 as a starter or side salad
- For the salad:
large red onions, skin on
Olive oil, for brushing
Flaky sea salt, to finish
- For the dressing:
(2¾ ounces) walnuts (about ⅔ cup)
sage leaves, rolled up and cut into really thin strips
white wine vinegar
mild chile flakes
A little freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of mint, leaves picked (about 15 grams/½ ounce)
- Halve the red onions through the core, keeping the skin on. Brush the cut faces with oil and place cut side down on a hot grill. Grill for about 12 minutes, until the cut surface is black and charred, then flip to skin side down and let cook for 5 minutes more. You should be able to insert a dinner knife, but with a little resistance—you want them slightly softened, but still with a little crunch. Remove to a plate to chill until they are cool enough to handle.
- Make the dressing while you wait. Roast the walnuts over the fire for about 8 minutes in an old sieve or dry frying pan, stirring occasionally. Slightly crush them and mix with all the other dressing ingredients apart from the mint leaves.
- Break the cooled onion halves into petals, discarding the outer skins. Set the petals with their charred rims upwards on a large serving plate. Just before serving, thinly shred the mint leaves and mix into the dressing. Drizzle all over the onion petals and sprinkle with a little sea salt to finish.
- To cook without a grill: Use a lightly oiled, heated griddle pan on your stove top and cook just as you would on the fire, but beware, your house will get pretty smoky.