When there is so much fabulous produce abounding right now, why in the world would I get excited over sweet onions, of all things?
Because Walla Walla sweet onions are on right now, and they have a season as short as peaches. By the middle of this month, the whole crop will be harvested and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
Yup, fresh, seasonal onions. Kinda unexpected, no?
I learned this interviewing a couple of onion farmers from the Walla Walla region. As usual, I heard how fascinating and challenging agriculture truly is–again.
For instance, did you know that these sweet onions are so delicate that they have to be hand harvested?
Grilled Sweet Onions
Cutting up a Walla Walla Sweet is a reflex whenever I get the grill going. No matter what I’m making, it’s going to be better with some of these succulent onions alongside.
The only trick is not losing any through the grate. If you have a grilling basket, good for you. I really need to invest in one for moments like these.
In general, thick slices work better than wedges. Then you can separate the rings for a roasted vegetable side dish, Or, chop them after grilling.
Caramelized Sweet Onions
Of course, there is nothing like caramelized onions on a burger. Here’s my guide to caramelize them right.
In my experience, most people stop cooking them prematurely and don’t get them fully caramelized, which takes about one hour. Put in the time in advance, and you can have caramelized onions for your ultimate grassfed burgers.
Sweet Onion Salad
But if you want to truly experience Walla Walla sweets like an onion grower does, try this sweet onion, tomato and cucumber salad from Michael Locati‘s grandmother, Vera.
It is a hallmark to the Italian onion growers of the Walla Walla valley, to simplicity and to summertime.
Because these onions have a high sugar content, you can enjoy them raw. A short bath in this red wine vinaigrette mellows them even more.
So, grab a glass of cold wine and call a few friends for dinner. Cheers!
Grandma Vera's Chilled Sweet Onion Salad
This height-of-summer salad is so simple, be sure that every single ingredient is the best, including the red wine vinegar. You can prepare this up to one day in advance and the flavors keep getting better. Serve it alongside any grilled meal from burgers to fish. Even onion skeptics will be surprised how sweet it is.
- 1 Walla Walla sweet onion, peeled
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 medium cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and sliced at an angle
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup best-quality red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cut the onion in half from root to neck. Slice each onion half into half moon shapes, and then cut the crescents in half.
Combine the onion, tomato and cucumber in a large salad bowl. Toss well with the salt and then add the vinegar to coat completely. Add the olive oil and pepper and stir well. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt and vinegar for a vibrant and full-flavored salad.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving for the best flavors and to serve cold.