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After All, Adam Didn't Bite an Onion

May 16, 1996|BEV BENNETT

As seasonal as asparagus, as tempting as raspberries and as misunderstood as rhubarb, the Vidalia onion is a tender delicacy grown in Georgia (with cousins throughout the South).

Unfortunately, it might have been done a disservice by the promoters who suggested it could be chomped into like an apple. We've all eaten apples, and a Vidalia, though sweet by onion standards, is no apple.

Instead, the Vidalia and other similar sweet onions should be used in recipes that enhance its unique characteristics. It is excellent raw in a lettuce or fruit salad, where its crisp texture, juiciness and mild taste shine. It is also delicious cooked.

But it should not be used in stews or similar recipes; the high water content will cause the onion to turn to mush after an hour or two. It is best briefly sauteed, batter-dipped and fried or stuffed.

Onions filled with rice and spiced lamb are popular in the Middle East. An Americanized version using a sweet onion shell will enhance the aromatic filling.

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LAMB-STUFFED ONIONS

2 Vidalia or other sweet onions

Salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound ground lamb

1/2 cup converted rice

1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup beef or chicken broth

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Cut off and discard tops of onions. Place onions in pan with boiling salted water to cover and cook 10 minutes. Drain well. When cool enough to handle, scoop out insides, leaving onion shell 3 to 4 skins thick. Chop insides to yield 1 cup pulp and stir in garlic.

Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet. Add chopped onion mixture and lamb and saute until light brown, about 10 minutes, stirring to break up meat. Pour off fat. Add rice, tomatoes, broth, lemon peel, celery seeds, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rice is cooked, 15 to 20 minutes.

Place 2 onion shells in small glass baking dish large enough to hold them. Spoon in lamb mixture, heaping in. Top each with 1 tablespoon bread crumbs. Cover lightly with foil. Bake at 350 degrees 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking 15 to 20 minutes longer to brown crumbs. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains about:

589 calories; 598 mg sodium; 63 mg cholesterol; 28 grams fat; 62 grams carbohydrates; 22 grams protein; 1.46 grams fiber.

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SPINACH-STRAWBERRY SALAD

2 cups torn spinach leaves, stems removed

1/2 cup diced ripe avocado

1/2 cup sliced or quartered strawberries

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Salt

Choose a mild-tasting olive oil. If desired, substitute 2 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar mixed with a dash of sugar for the Sherry wine vinegar.

Arrange half of spinach on each of 2 salad plates. Top each with half the avocado and half the strawberries.

Stir together oil, vinegar, pepper and dash salt in cup. Spoon dressing over each salad. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains about:

267 calories; 173 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 25 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 2.52 grams fiber.

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