This past summer while in Greece I visited the island of Lefkada, situated on the Ionian side of Greece. Each day was spent visiting a new beach and each evening it was a new dining adventure. Sometimes it was seafood and sometimes meat. Many dishes were sampled – some good, some were “meh” and others…memorable.
The last night in Lefkada was spent in Lefkada’s main town and my friend Christo made a reservation for us to dine at “Fryni sto Molo”, a restaurant bearing the Chef’s name – Fryni. As soon as I knew I was going to visit Lefkada, I set upon asking friends who had visited this island to also offer up their “good eats” recommendations. Time and time again…the name “Fryni” came up.
My friend Christo spent part of his childhood living in Lefkada and he’s also friends with Fryni and her husband (co-owners). Christo asked me to allow him to order everything for the evening and I gladly obliged. Christo ordered these cheese-stuffed onions and I knew immediately that I had to have this dish again – in the comfort of my own kitchen (and share them with you).
At Fryni, the onions were slit and blanched and as soon as the onions cooled, the layers were peeled away then filled with a spoonful of cheese and rolled up. I first stuffed onions earlier this year to make these sublime onion dolmades. Only knowing this meze as being a cheese-filled onion, I began flipping through some of my Greek cookbooks and I found one very similar in Diane Kochilas’ “The Greek Vegetarian“. This book includes a rendition by Chef Chrisanthos Karamolengos – a chef I had the pleasure of meeting this past May at the Sani Gourmet Festival.
These onions stuffed with cheese are filled with goat cheese, thyme and a little garlic, salt and pepper – that’s it. It’s an easy meze (appetizer) but have to use a cheese that isn’t too wet, don’t overfill the onions and you want to choose a baking vessel that will snugly hold the onions upright and tight. Beyond that, this is an easy meze, it’s different and it’s an ideal for cheese lovers. Aren’t we all cheese lovers?
Goat Cheese-Stuffed Onions (Κρεμμυδια Γεμιστα με Τυρι)
(Meze for 4)
4 medium-sized onions (yellow or white)
approx. 1 cup of soft goat cheese
1 small clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp. of fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil
chopped chives or scallions and sweet paprika for garnish
Pre-heated 375F oven
- Place a large pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. In the meantime, cut the two ends of your onions (just and peel off the outer skins. Now cut into each onion along the length of it right through to the center (about halfway down). When your water comes to a boil, add a good amount of salt and carefully drop your onions into the boiling water. Simmer for 5-6 minutes or until the onions are soft to the touch and have opened up like a clam. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and allow to cool (about 10 minutes).
- Carefully remove each layer of onion until you are left with the heart of the onion. Reserve the hearts (centers) in a bowl and continue to unravel your onions. You should now have a plate full of onion shells (use the hearts in another dish).
- In a bowl, add the goat cheese, thyme and some and fresh ground pepper to taste and mash and mix with a fork. To fill the onion shells, open them up with one hand and take about a tablespoon of the cheese mixture and place inside. Roll the onion around the filling and place the onion upright in a shallow baking dish that will snugly fit your approx. 16 stuffed onions. Continue to fill all the onions and arrange the stuffed onions in a circular fashion in your baking vessel.
- Drizzle the tops of the onions with olive oil and place in your pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes or until just browned. Remove from the oven and spoon some heavy cream over the onions and garnish with chopped scallions or chives and sweet paprika. Serve immediately. Pair with a chilled bottle of Kechri Winery’s Kechribari retsina made of Roditis and Savatiano grapes.
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