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In Season: Onions

Everyday Food, January/February 2011

The Basics

Onions are a staple in kitchens all over the world. They come in two categories: storage onions (shown here), which are always available in cooler months, and fresh types, such as sweet Vidalias, which are harvested in spring and summer. Yellow onions have a strong flavor and are the most common storage type. White onions have a bright pungency and are often eaten raw. Red onions and flat, saucer-shaped cipollini are milder in flavor. Pearl onions are white or red onions picked very small.

Buying and Storing

Look for firm onions that feel heavy for their size, with dry, tight, shiny skin. Avoid any with soft spots, blemishes, or sprouting. Store onions in a cool, dry, dark place and use them within two months.

To Use and Cook

Even the sharpest-tasting onions become sweet, mellow, and almost meaty in flavor when cooked slowly over low heat until they are browned, or caramelized; serve them on crostini, pizza, pasta, burgers, or alongside a juicy steak. Try pickling red onions in a little fresh lemon juice and salt -- they keep for up to two weeks and are a great addition to salads and sandwiches. Diced, raw white onions are traditional in salsas like pico de gallo, and make a great sandwich, chili, or taco topping. Cook whole cipollini and pearl onions in stews or alongside roasts.

Recipes to Try: