Thanks to my Dad I relish onions. He would add a thick slice of a Walla Walla Sweet to any kind of sandwich and be happy. Me too, though I usually prefer them cooked. Caramelized onions on a grilled burger, under a piece of salmon, with lentils and yogurt, add apple slices midway and serve with pork, french onion soup . . . I could go on. And on. I make these so often I feel guilty. They have me in a corner, like I can’t cook/live without them. At least once a week they save my culinary butt by making something plain taste really good. My best kitchen buddy these caramelized onions.
Chef Jerry Traunfeld wanted to make a raita, traditionally a palate cooling combination of yogurt and cucumber, curry, carrots, lemon, but he wanted it to have Pacific Northwest character. You can’t get much more PNW than Walla Walla sweet onions. He nailed it I think. Serve with any spicy grill. Great with black beans. His recipe calls for mellowing the onions by soaking them in vinegar for an hour. If you strongly prefer cooked onions, sauté them first and then proceed with the recipe minus the vinegar soaking.
Walla Walla Sweet Onion & Yogurt Salad Recipe
From Jerry Traunfeld’s, The Herbfarm Cookbook.
This is a lot like traditional raita. Traunfeld recommends folding in pesticide-free nasturtium blossoms just before serving if you have them. At the moment I have chive blossoms so I added a few of those to the salad. This salad keeps in the refrigerator for two days, covered, and is excellent with black beans and almost anything grilled. My husband’s making and taking this on a guys’ kayaking trip this weekend. It should travel well and will be an amazing treat with salmon at day’s end.
Ingredients: 1 Walla Walla or any sweet onion, thinly sliced. (Walla Walla Sweets are late this year, but can be found. In a couple of weeks they’ll be readily available.)/ 1 t minced fresh ginger/ 2 T seasoned rice vinegar/ 1 C plain yogurt/ 1/4 fresh basil leaves torn into 1/2-inch pieces/ 2 T coarsely chopped fresh mint/ 1/4 t salt/ Pepper to taste/ Nasturtium blossoms if available.
Directions: Combine sliced onion, ginger and vinegar and let sit uncovered for at least 1 hour. This allows the onion to mellow./ Then pour off most of the liquid and add to all other ingredients except for fresh blossoms./ Stir thoroughly and season./ Refrigerate/ If you’re using edible blossoms fold in gently just before serving.
Caramelized Onions Recipe
Any onion, not just the sweet varieties, benefit from caramelization. I swear they make almost anything taste better. And as I said before, I might rely on them a little too much. Here’s how I make them.
Ingredients & Directions: Makes about 2 cups of cooked onions. Thinly slice 2 large onions/ Melt 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil in a large fry pan until sizzling/ Add onions, season with salt and toss to thoroughly coat with butter & oil/ Saute on medium for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally/ Turn heat to low and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid on/ Remove lid, and cook on medium heat for another 5 – 10 minutes, stirring often/ Onions are done when they’re very soft and slightly golden in color/ Adjust seasoning and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days and use as needed/ A variation: 2/3 of the way through the cooking procedure add 3 T balsamic vinegar or orange juice/ Continue cooking and stirring for another 10 minutes or so. Beneath a piece of salmon, num.
Onions’ sweet character is summoned and they become soft and almost creamy when thoroughly caramelized. Eat them with almost anything – though maybe not ice cream. Somebody will do that next. If there’s bacon ice cream, and there is, then caramelized onion ice cream isn’t far behind.
Walla Walla Sweets & Cucumber Recipe
In summertime there was always a platter of thickly sliced tomatoes and a bowl of onions and cucumbers in vinegar on my grandmother’s dinner table. They’re delicious on their own and I thought so as a kid, but didn’t yet appreciate that they’re wonderful condiments with almost any other food on the table.
Ingredients & Directions: Thinly slice sweet onions and cucumber in equal amounts or according to your own preference/ Dress with plenty of apple cider vinegar – add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar or a bit of water if you wish to diminish some of the sour vinegar flavor/ Freshly grated pepper to taste/ Toss thoroughly and again before serving/ Make this several hours before serving, refrigerate and let it marinate thoroughly.