Thanks to today's system of shipping, almost every kind of fresh produce is now available year round, from strawberries to asparagus. Still, a sure culinary sign of spring is the arrival of the year's new crop of sweet Vidalia onions from Georgia.
These days, different varieties of onion, harvested at different times of the year, come to our local markets from Georgia, California, Oregon, Texas, Oregon, Washington state, Hawaii and even Chile.
But because I will never forget my first taste of a just-picked Vidalia onion, literally dripping with dewy juice, I swear that eating one fresh and locally harvested is a special experience that is lost once they sit for a few months. And Vidalias are just reaching stores now.
All sweet onions are milder and more succulent than the thicker-skinned, brown or yellow varieties known as storage onions. A high natural sugar level (6-15 percent) is what make them a stand-out compared to the harder storage onions, which contain just three to five percent.
Also, the higher water content in sweet onions dilutes the pungency of the sulfur compounds that make onions seem to have a “burning” taste. And, for some people, this reduced pungency makes sweet onions easier to digest.
I once made onion soup using only sweet onions. It was sweet to the point of being inedible, as if I had poured sugar into the pot.
But using this quality to advantage, sweet onions are perfect for making onion confit, also called onion jam or marmalade. Usually, this condiment of caramelized, meltingly tender onions requires long cooking, lots of oil and frequent stirring.
Instead, benefiting from the moisture in sweet onions, this version lets the oven do the slow work of gently softening and then browning them.
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Balsamic vinegar softly balances the sweetness in the onions, and a touch of herbs adds aromatic flavor. Serve them with chicken, pork, or with fish, especially halibut or sea bass.
Roasted Sweet Onion Confit
Makes 3 cups or 6 servings.
- 1-1/2 lb. Vidalia or other sweet onions (3 medium)
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. ground pepper
- 4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch x 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Cut the onions so they are in bite-size, manageable lengths for eating with a fork. Place them in a mixing bowl. Add the oregano, allspice, salt, pepper and vinegar. Toss, using a fork or your fingers, until the onions are evenly coated. Add the oil and toss again. Arrange the onions in the prepared baking dish. Pour in the broth. Cover the pan with foil.
- Bake the onions 60 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake 30 minutes longer, or until the onions are soft and browned, and most of the liquid has evaporated. Cool completely.
- Serve with roasted or grilled meats and poultry, or with fish. These onions keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
2 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat)
12 g. carbohydrate
1 g. protein
2 g. dietary fiber
243 mg. sodium