I hear some of you gnawing on crisp fall pears. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw. Chomp, chomp, chomp. It’s kind of annoying, actually. For while you’re pearing, wearing fleece v-necks, simmering stews, and bobbing for apples, it's 97 degrees here and I'm still in Tomatoland. Would you mind holding the door open while I hustle through with this skillet?
Thanks. And now, as a reward for your act of fine courtesy, for your gesture of politesse, I shall offer you this gold-tinged side. It's one you'll want to make before the sun fully sets and the gray clouds roll in. If your tomatoes still cling to their waxy green vines, twist those suckers off like you mean it and grab a few big onions from your pantry.
Cause we can talk about tomatoes all we like, we can write odes and poems and sonnets to them, but the real star of this particular theatrical production is actually a giant, twirling morass of onions that has been caramelized into submission and kissed with a sprinkling of powdered sunshine, or, as they call it in India, turmeric.
I know summer's long gone for many of you, and I do want to be sensitive to your whereabouts, wherever those whereabouts may be. (Where are your whereabouts exactly?) If you're over tomatoes, if they're as dead to you as a schoolyard bully, if your weather's too brisk and your rains have come in and you've moved on emotionally to pumpkins and roasts and hay bales, please don't despair. I hereby grant you special dispensation to crisp up cubes of butternut squash and toss them on the onions and the beady little couscous, in the tomatoes' stead.
And next year, when the summer sun rises anew, you can enter Tomatoland refreshed and revived, and there I'll be, holding the door open, waving you through with a nod and a smile.
Recipe for Israeli Couscous with turmeric, caramelized onions, and tomatoes
A beautiful, sunny side open to infinite additions -- I was tempted to toss in olives, feta, even cubes of lamb -- this dish will brighten up your kitchen, or perhaps your entire zip code. Makes a terrific potluck offering, too. The onions will take about 30 minutes to cook, so plan accordingly.
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups Israeli couscous
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large yellow onions (Spanish or sweet), halved and sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Drop the couscous into a large pot of rapidly boiling, salted water, and cook like pasta, until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse briefly under cool water.
Meanwhile, caramelize the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute, tossing occasionally with tongs, for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar, balsamic, turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon more salt, and continue cooking, and giving a stir or two, over this assertive heat for 5 more minutes. Then reduce the heat to low and cook, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes longer, or until very soft, glisteny, and sweet.