IN PRAISE OF ONIONS
Local Feast – Seasonal recipes from Local Produce
By Barbara Bridgewater
Have you ever thought how underappreciated and hard working the onion is? As a common aromatic used in stocks and broths and sauces, it creates magic in dishes with its pungent flavor. Sliced, sautéed, and chopped it adds dimension to salads, stir fries and stews. Always relegated to ‘ingredient’ rather than the featured star.
Onions have amazing anti-inflammatory, anti-allergen and antioxidant properties. They contain ‘quercetin’, one of the most powerful antioxidant properties. And, If that wasn’t good enough, apparently onions help to keep your skin wrinkle free, too.
When I was checking out Sweet Beets Market last week I was happy to see baskets full of red and yellow onions and coppery skinned shallots, fresh and grown here in Bradford. I thought it would be perfect to cook up a few recipes where the Onion definitely is the star.
The Red Onion is generally milder and favored in salads and on burgers, but try making pickled red onion. This simple condiment, which, by the way, couldn’t be easier to prepare, can transform any sandwich, burger or salad it touches. It has a slightly sweet flavor, tender crunch and pretty, pink color. Just bring 2 tbsp red vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 cup water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1 small red onion thinly sliced. Let cool and drain before serving.
Shallots are elongated bulb shaped onions, and have golden brown, copper or flushed pink skin. They have a milder taste with a hint of garlic. While there is almost nothing better than roasting shallots until their insides are soft, I found a wonderful recipe for Spicy Shallot Relish: Roast 5 shallots with the skin on for 15 mins, till slightly charred, remove the skin, and chop into fairly small pieces, then saute’ in 3 TBS oil. Add balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme and red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. Great addition to steaks, sausages or burgers.
The large Yellow onion has a stronger taste and roasts beautifully. Remove the skins of 4 medium size onions, simmer in water for about 25 minutes until tender. Lift them out with a slotted spoon. Slice in half from root to tip. Place them in a baking dish cut side down. Mix 11/2 cups of heavy cream, a handful of parmesan, thyme and salt and pepper, pour over the onions and bake for 25 minutes.
And while there was a rich, sweet smell of onions and shallots baking in the oven, I had time to make a small jar of Garlic Shallot Oil:
4 Shallots peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves
1 cup of olive oil
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried rosemary
Put shallots and garlic in a sterilized jar with the oil. Let steep for 4 days (no more). Pass oil through a sieve. Pour into a pretty bottle, add pepper and dried rosemary. Keep in the fridge to use in salad dressing, or to drizzle over pasta, fish or shrimp.