Opting for onions

The yellow variety spices up summer by giving dishes a flavor kick

July 16, 2008|By Joanna Brenner | Joanna Brenner,Sun reporter

It's barbecue season, and it's the flavor of the yellow onion that gives many summer dishes their tangy, yet sweet kick. Because of its high sulfur content, the yellow onion has a richer taste than the white onion.

The lion's share of the onion crop - 88 percent - is dedicated to yellow onions, says Kim Reddin, a spokeswoman for the National Onion Association. Yellow onions differ by season, and are generally broken down into two categories: spring/summer and fall/winter. In the spring and summer, the onions are higher in water content, and therefore have a more mild flavor, making them great for raw applications, such as toppings on hamburgers and hot dogs.

Yellow onions are white on the inside, but their papery outside layers are a yellow-brown color that turns dark brown when cooked. Yellow onions take well to sauteing and caramelizing.

While yellow onions are known for their zesty flavor in French onion soup, they also have tear-inducing potency. To avoid waterworks in the kitchen, chill onions for about 30 minutes before cutting, says Reddin. Always use a sharp, straight edge (not serrated) knife, which will cause less damage to occur to the onion's cell tissue.

Buying

* Look for yellow onions that are not soft.

* If you want onions that are full of flavor and can be used right away, look for necks that are moist (the neck is between the top of the bulb and the bottom of the green part).

* For onions you want to store, look for necks that are completely dry.

Storing

* Keep yellow onions in a cool, dry place, like a basket under the counter.

* Try clipping off the tops of your onions and placing them in a pair of pantyhose. Tie knots between each onion to store them and allow them to dry, says Kim Reddin, a spokeswoman for the National Onion Association.

Preparing

* Chop off the top of the onion and then peel the skin.

* Leave the root on so the onion does not fall apart.

Serving and cooking

* Use raw yellow onions as a condiment, or in salsas or dips. Or marinate them and put them in a salad.

* Try a raw onion salad with sun-dried tomatoes and mandarin oranges.

* Saute onions to serve with your favorite meat.

* To caramelize onions, cook them in a pan with butter very slowly, over low heat. Use a lid to keep the onions moist.

* Try caramelizing onions with tequila and serving them with a wood-grilled steak, Reddin says.

joanna.brenner@baltsun.com

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