Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Paen to an Onion

“The onion and its satin wrappings is among the most beautiful of vegetables and is the only one that represents the essence of things. It can be said to have a soul.”
Charles Dudley Warner, ‘My Summer in a Garden’ (1871)

I was thinking this morning that there is no more important pantry staple besides salt than the onion. As long as I have onions and salt I can make something from whatever else I have. If all I have is onions, I can still make soup, or roast them as a vegetable. If I have some bread and butter I can make a sandwich.

James Beard was extremely fond of a finger sandwich made of rounds of bread with butter and onion between them, edges slathered with mayonnaise and rolled in chopped parsley. I saw Martha Stewart honor her Dad by making her version of his onion sandwich.

For me the smell of onions sauteeing is the smell of my Mom starting dinner, the smell of home.

Almost daily I do a sautee or soup of vegetables and I always start with onions. (As my wife and son can attest as they are particularly susceptible to the onions sulfuric acid sting.)

Cooked in a dish they add flavor and sweetness. Raw they add their sulfur snap and crunch. I can't make salsa without an onion. I can't make soup, stew. Long cooked beans and meats need their offsetting sweetness and allium-ness.

The onion is claimed to be a defense against the common cold and I admit that during a cold is when I am most likely to indulge in onion sandwiches.

To sum up, onions good.


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