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food & wine dictionary
Food and Wine Dictionary
Brown text or background indicates a
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on the half shell
on the rocks
Related to the lily, this underground bulb is prized around the world for the magic it makes in a multitude of dishes with its pungent flavor and odor. There are two main classifications of onion
, which are simply mature onions with a juicy flesh covered with dry, papery skin. Dry onions come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and flavors. Among those that are mild flavored are the white or yellow
, available March through June; the larger, more spherical
, which is usually yellow skinned (but can be white) and in season from August to May; and the
, which is available year-round. The stronger-flavored
can have yellow, red or white skins. They can range from 1 to 4 inches in diameter and in flavor from mildly pungent to quite sharp. Among the special onion varieties are three exceedingly juicy specimens. The
, hailing as its name implies from the Hawaiian island of the same name, is sweet, mild and crisply moist. It can range in color from white to pale yellow and is usually shaped like a slightly flattened sphere. The Maui onion's season is from April to July.
are the namesake of Vidalia, Georgia, where they thrive. At their best, these large, pale yellow onions are exceedingly sweet and juicy. They're usually available from May through June only in the regions where grown or by mail order. The state of Washington is the source of
Walla Walla onions
, named after the city of the same name. Large, round and golden, they're in season from June to September but are usually available outside their growing area only by mail order.
Oso Sweet onions
hail from South America and, as their name suggests, are extremely succulent and sweet and, in fact, contain almost 50 percent more sugar than Vidalias. They're available in specialty produce markets from January through March. Another import is the
Rio Sweet onion
, which is predictably sweet and available from October through December. Tiny
are mild-flavored and about the size of a small marble. They can be cooked (and are often creamed) and served as a side dish or pickled and used as a
or garnish (as in the
are about 1 inch in diameter and mildly flavored. They're cooked as a side dish, used in stews and pickled. When buying onions, choose those that are heavy for their size with dry, papery skins with no signs of spotting or moistness. Avoid onions with soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place with good air circulation for up to 2 months (depending on their condition when purchased). Humidity breeds spoilage in dry onions. Once cut, an onion should be tightly wrapped, refrigerated and used within 4 days. Most onions cause tearing (caused by sulfuric compounds) to some extent some just watery eyes, others giant crocodile tears. Freezing the onion for 20 minutes before chop-ping helps, but then so does wearing safety goggles. Dried or freeze-dried onion by-products include
(ground dehydrated onion),
(onion powder and salt),
onion flavoring cubes
. Onions are also sold canned or pickled (usually pearl onions) and frozen (whole or chopped). Onions contain a fair amount of vitamin C with traces of other vitamins and minerals.
Material adapted from the
The New Food Lover's Companion
© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.
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