Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ode to Onions

I love onions. I love them on their own, I love them in salads, I love them grilled, and I firmly believe that any meal is better by adding in onions. What makes them even more spectacular is that there are so many different types of onions. At any given point in time I probably have 5 varieties of onion in my kitchen, and sometimes I wonder if people think I am weird when they see me checking out at a grocery store.

What I don’t understand is why onions have a bad name? Sure they make you cry and I expect if you eat enough of them you may start to smell like them (I have asked friends and they have assured me that I don’t!) but they have so many great uses and flavors, that it should more than make up for their bad rep. If you don’t already love them, here are my favorite types, in no particular order, and how I use them.

Red Onions
From Wikipedia: “Red onions, sometimes called purple onions, are cultivars of the onion with purplish red skin and white flesh tinged with red. These onions tend to be medium to large in size and have a mild to sweet flavor.”

I love red onions in salads, sandwiches and mostly on bagels with cream cheese and a tomato. We mostly eat these raw and always have one in a baggie in the fridge that we can take out a cut a couple pieces off of.

Yellow Onions
From Wikipedia: “Yellow Onion is a variety of dry onion with a strong onion flavor. White inside, its layers of papery skin have a yellow-brown color.”

I use yellow onions as my every day onions. I don’t generally eat them raw but they are great in soups and stir-fry, on shish-kebabs and pizzas, in pasta sauces and fajitas, basically I add them to everything I cook. Just about nothing in the world smells better than some garlic, yellow onions and peppers sautéing with a little olive oil.

From Wikipedia: “The shallot is a relative of the onion, and tastes a bit like an onion but has a sweeter, milder flavor.”

I love shallots in salads. They are best when sliced super thin and they have a wonderful sweet taste. They are also absolutely amazing when caramelized and then added to sautéed brussel sprouts.

Cipollini Onions
From “Pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nee this is a smaller, flat, pale onion. The flesh is a slight yellowish color and the skins are thin and papery. These are sweeter onions, having more residual sugar than yellow onions, but not as much as shallots.”

I have one recipe for these babies and am always on the lookout for more because they are so amazing. I make Balsamic Braised cipollini onions which are actually quite simple. I cook them for an hour in a balsamic red wine sauce until they are melt in your mouth delicious. I made them as part of dinner for my parents once and they stole the show, Mom raved about them for weeks!

From Wikipedia: “Scallions, also commonly known as spring onion or green onion…tend to be milder tasting than other onions and are typically steamed.”

Scallions are one of those things that you never run out of uses for. The other day I added them to turkey burgers because I was out of the parsley and cilantro that the recipe called for. They also make most dished a little prettier if you chop them up and sprinkle them on the top before serving. They aren’t super strong, but they just add a little bit of flavor and a lot of color.

Vidalia Onions
From Wikipedia: “Vidalia onions were first grown near Vidalia, Georgia, in the early 1930s. It is an unusually sweet variety of onion, due to the low amount of sulfur in the soil in which the onions are grown. Georgia's state legislature passed the "Vidalia Onion Act of 1986" which authorized a trademark for "Vidalia Onions" and limits the production area to Georgia.”

Definitely one of the most interesting varieties of onions, these bad boys have legislation protecting them! They are sweet and wonderful and only available in the summer time. We love them grilled or sautéed and just eat them plain. They are rather large and JR and I will chow down a whole one before the rest of the meal is done cooking.

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