Produce of the Week - Onions
sponsored by Coleman Farms
Onions have had a hard time competing with the wave of specious hygenics that has washed over the US in the last fifty years. Raw onions do have a strong odor, but the chemicals behind onion's odor are natural, 100% biodegradable, are not particularly allergenic and will not accumulate in your body fat. Odor aside, Onions are tasty raw or cooked, and have a variety of salubrious properties. None of this can be said about the synthetic perfumes used in household or personal care products, in cleansers or in Bounce®.
Mature ("dry") Onions come in a variety of shapes and colors, with raw flavors ranging from as 'hot' as a hot chile (but a different heat) to downright sweet. Any of these can be used as a condiment - in sandwiches, for example - though you may want to use very thin slices of the hotter varieties - while the sweeter ones can constitute a major constituent of the filling, or even its entirety: slabs of sweet onion stuck into a sliced ficelle or bâtard with a bit of sweet butter can make a very refreshing lunch.
All Onions contain a lot of sugar to help them hibernate. When Onions are cooked, the sulfides causing the odor and much of the sharpness are broken down, unmasking the underlying sweetness of the onion, together with a range of more delicate flavors. These mix well with all manner of things animal and vegetable, serving sometimes to enhance the flavors of other ingredients - the sweetness of onion boosts that of carrots or tomatoes, for example - and sometimes framing another flavor by contrast - think of the onion in a quiche or grilled cheese sandwich. A basic means of preparing Onion - for use in Onion soup, for example, but also in various egg dishes and others - is to slice them thin and then cook slowly in very little oil, letting them brown as their sugar caramelizes; the caramelized onions will have a special taste as well as acting as a powerful colorant.
A sort of French pizza, Pissaladière, uses these caramalized onions as the main topping; you can stop with the onions, or add things like olives, anchovies, bits of chèvre topped with walnut halves, sun dried tomatoes....
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