First of all, let’s not get too picky. In general, different kinds of onions are interchangeable. Just because you don’t have any white onions doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and fix a Mexican dish with yellow globes. Or red onions, for that matter. I recently fixed liver and onions with leeks, as I had no yellow onions in the house. What I got was a much different dish, to be sure. And it was delicious. However, I will say that liver is still better with yellow onions. They are sweeter than leeks and better complement the liver.



Walla Walla Sweets

Take a clue from their seasonality. Walla Walla Sweets are available from June through August and have too much water in them to store for very long. So enjoy them in season, as they are, while they last. Raw in a sandwich. Sliced thick, brushed with olive oil, and grilled. Sliced in a salad.

At Walla Walla’s annual onion festival, they make caramel covered onions. I’ve not tried them, but I hear they’re great.

White onions

As I suggested, Mexican recipes generally call for white onions. They are milder and often a bit sweeter than yellow globes. You can use them raw for salsa or scattered over a dish as garnish.

Red onions

Great for color, obviously. Beautiful and tasty in salad. A thick slice broiled and placed on a rare steak with blue cheese sprinkled over both is just about the ultimate dish. However, red onions were really created for this pickled onion relish. You find this simple condiment throughout the Yucatan. It goes with anything containing meat and chiles. Anything savory, actually.

Pickled red onions

Two red onions, sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Big pinch of Mexican oregano

Blanch the onions in boiling water for one minute. Drain. While still hot, place in small bowl, add vinegar, salt, and oregano. Add enough water to just cover. Let sit for several hours.

Yellow globe onions

These are the major storage onions and the bulk of Washington’s onion crop. And that’s simply because they are delicious and all-purpose. They can be substituted for other onions. The longer you cook them, the sweeter they get. If you want to substitute raw for milder onions, just soak in cold water for a while.

Even if you think you don’t like liver, just try this.

Liver and Onions

(adapted from Saveur magazine, where it is claimed it comes from Harry’s Bar in Venice)

The original calls for calf’s liver. I prefer pork liver, which is a bit stronger in taste.

One pound liver
2 large yellow globe onions
Olive oil
Large handful of parsley, chopped
Tablespoon of butter

Cut liver into four long slices. Now turn them 90 degrees and cut across them as thinly as possible. Set aside.

Slice onions thinly. In a large skillet, saute slowly in olive oil until golden.

Remove onions from skillet.

Add more olive oil and turn heat up just a bit. Add liver and fry until barely pink and crisp around edges.

Return onions to skillet and cook with onions for a minute or two. Remove to platter.

Add butter. When melted, add parsley. Scrape up anything stuck to skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes. Pour over liver and onions. Salt and pepper to taste.


Onion Lore

Just a few of my favorite tidbits gathered from here and there. Indeed, there is much more lore about on the Internet and books about the vegetable.

The word “onion” comes circuitously from the Middle English “union,” which comes in turn from the Latin “unio.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the classical Latin agricultural writer Columella wrote that peasants used “unio” for a certain variety of onion because it produced no shoots, thus representing a single entity. The onion, in other words, is a single bulb consisting of concentric rings.

The onion is thought to have originated more than 5,000 years ago in Central Asia.

Onions were often buried with Egyptian dead, its concentric rings symbolizing eternal life.

Ancient Greek athletes ate lots of onions, thinking it would balance their blood and increase their athletic ability.

The three main vegetables of Medieval Europe were beans, cabbage, and onions. Onions also found many medicinal uses, including for headache, snakebite, and hair loss. As Chaucer said of his Summoner in The Canterbury Tales: “Wel loved he garleek,oynons, and eek lekes.”

According to Turkish legend, when Satan was cast out of heaven, garlic sprouted where he first set his left foot and onions where he set his right.