Ode to an Onion

>> Sunday, May 8, 2011

I am a sweet onion fanatic. Not so very long ago, I'd have to sometimes settle for a stouter storage onion.  Storage onions are fine for cooking, but they can be too pungent for truly enjoying raw.  These days, I can always find a sweet onion at the grocery store.  Even though sweet onions aren't the unusual treat that they used to be, I still get excited about onions this time of year.  Why?  This is Vidalia onion season!  Juicy and sweet with thick layers, these onions are a wonder. 

What makes Vidalia's special?  Vidalia onions are grown in a very specific 20 county region of Georgia.  The low sulfur soil and the unique climate result in the beloved sweet onion.  (Say it like vie-dayl-yuh with a nice long I sound at the beginning.  Georgians will leave the L sound out, but I'm from Mississippi, so in it goes.) The onions are especially sweet because of their low sulfur and high sugar content.  In fact, a Vidalia onion can have as much sugar as an apple.  The onions are harvested late-April through mid-June.  They can be stored for sale as late as December in special, high-nitrogen storage units, but I generally see them in our grocery store in May and June. 

How do you use Vidalia onions?  I use sweet onions in any recipe that calls for an onion, but Vidalia onions are really best appreciated raw or lightly cooked.  Slice one for a sandwich or add chopped, raw Vidalia onion to a salad to fully appreciate the sweet onion flavor.  The onions are great in Classic Greek Salad (see recipe at the end).  The thick onion layers really lend themselves to onion rings too.  I love to use this onion ring recipe from Cooking Light. 

I bought my first Vidalia onions of the season today.  Although grown in Georgia, you can find these delicious onions nationwide.  If you've not tried Vidalias, start looking for the word "Vidalia" on the little stickers on the sweet onions at your grocery store and snap them up while you can!

Classic Greek Salad
Adapted from Greek Meze Cooking

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into thin wedges (I tend to use lots of grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise)
1/2 cucumber, halved and sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into rings (I like to use red bell pepper)
2 oz. kalamata olives
1 large onion, finely sliced
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano
salt to taste

Toss together the tomato through feta cheese.  Combine lemon, oil, oregano, and salt in a small bowl, and whisk to make a vinaigrette.  Add to the salad and serve.

Serves 4-6


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