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Cooking with Onions Vegetables

Onions Vegetables

Onions vegetables have been a flavoring element in almost every part of the world. They are hardy, easily transported, and store well. They can be eaten raw or cooked, cold, warm, or hot and they make almost any savory food palatable. Monotonous fare, even on the run, will be livened up by adding some variety of onion. In fact, onions held such an important place in parts of the ancient world that the Egyptians even felt them worthy to carry into the next world, and onions are frequently represented in the hieroglyphics on their tombs.

All onions vegetables are members of the alliums family, along with their cousins garlic and leeks. Onions range from large bulbs to pencil-thin stalks, from pungent to nearly sugar sweet, from sturdy preserves to more delicate varieties.

Bulb onions - white, yellow and red - are the most readily available members of this family. These are the "storage" onions that we buy in sacks or in bulk. They tend to be fairly strong-flavored, because of the high concentration of sulfur compounds in their cells. (it is the sulfur that gives onions their "bite") large yellow onions, sometimes called Bermuda or Spanish onions are much sharper tasting, although long cooking will make them somewhat sweeter. Red onions are not quite as mild as large yellow ones, but they are still sweet and very attractive to eat raw. They do lose some of their deep maroon coloring when they are cooked, sometimes turning yellow. All of these onions can be used for cooking.

For eating raw, I suggest taking advantage of the super sweets, which are becoming more widely available. The best known is the Vidalia, grown in a small corner of Georgia. But there are also Walla Walla, Texas Super Sweets and Maui, to name a few. All of them are the same basic onion; they are just grown in different localities, in similar low-sulfur soil. These slightly squashed-looking, thin-skinned bulbs contain much more water than ordinary storage onions, and have less of the offending sulfur compounds. They are actually so sweet you can eat them out of hand like an apple and are dynamite in salads and sandwiches. Some cooks feel these super sweets lose much of their flavor when cooked, but I love the taste in some dishes. They tend to be very fragile, though, and spoil very quickly if mishandled or stored too long.

Boiling, or pearl, onions are small bulb onions of various colors that are delicious added to soups, stews or casseroles or when creamed or pickled. These are almost always used whole. They are available with red, white, or yellow skins and can be very sweet.

Green onions (scallions) are simply bulb onion shoots, young versions of the familiar onion. They are milder than in their larger stages (although some are very sharp if eaten raw). Green onions are delicious in salads and I love to use them in cooked dishes when only a hint of onion flavor is wanted. I often use them in sauces instead of bulb onions and sometimes in place of shallots when I cannot find good ones in the market. Green onions are also delicious added to stir-fries, cooked whole, or combined with other onions in savory dishes.

The shallot, an onion relative, forms a head somewhat like garlic. The individual cloves range in color form grayish white to tan to red skinned. They can be very sweet or slightly sharp and offer a delicate onion flavor. They can be difficult to peel, but the effort is well worthwhile. The gray variety of shallot has a finer taste - especially when minced raw and mixed with vinegar as a mignonette sauce for raw oyster - but it is hard to find. If shallots are not in the market, are in bad condition, or not at hand when you need them, substitute green onions or a little minced sweet onion.

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