Summer Food: Red Onion Salads

I will start today a series of post that will be randomly posted through the summer, highlighting foods that are perfect fro the summer, either because the ingredients are available through the summer very cheap and at the pick of their ripeness, or because they are refreshing and summery. The first one is probably one of the simplest salads I ever conceived and it can be made in matter of minutes. As is true with those dishes, quality of the ingredients maters. Buy fresh, preferably locally and don ‘t fear to shed some extra bucks for organic products. As, typical in this blog, it is really important to take some time and talk about the star of the dish, which is the red onion for today.

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Red onion is one of the three major varieties onions, the white, yellow and red. Red onions, sometimes called purple onions, are cultivars of the onion with purplish red skin and white flesh tinged with red. These onions tend to be medium to large in size and have a mild to sweet flavor. They are often consumed raw, added for color to salads, and grilled or lightly cooked with other foods. Red onions are available throughout the year. The red color comes from anthocyanidins such as cyanidin. Their peak season as is it true for all onions is during the summer. Shallots although reddish are different, since they are produced by a cross of garlic and onion. Although onions are onions, picking them is not a blind-folded procedure. Look for specimens that are in average size, 2-3 in in diameter. The should not have any spots, bruises or blemishes, and should have their orange skin. They should be firm and there should be no black powdery stuff on them. The black stuff is fungus and is very nasty!!!

Let ‘s proceed to the salad part. For the software we will need:

  • 2 Medium red onions (2-3” in diameter)
  • 1 Videlia or other white sweet onion (2-3” in diameter)
  • 2 springs of fresh mint
  • 1/8 cup sushi vinegar
  • Juice from one lime
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • pinch of salt

Tools:

1 large bowl (metal or glass preferably)

  • Warm tap water
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt
  • Nice sharp knife

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Start by cutting the onion lengthwise in half, meaning from the root to the top. Remove the root part and a small portion of the top. Then with slow slicing motions make as think as possible slices. Use your knuckles to guide your knife. Not everything will come out equal, but it is ok, try your best for evenness and thickness (actually thinness). Our purpose is to break as many cell walls as possible to drive some of the smell and hotness of the onion out, so we can focus on the sweetness and the freshness.

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Once done with all three onions add them in warm water and add the 3 tbsp of salt. Rub it with your hands in-between your fingers. That will remove most of the sulfurs that the onions have and makes you tear and burn when you eat them. The water will soon turn reddish.

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Change the water and repeat the process 2 more times without any salt now. After the final wash add cold water. At this point you can try. The onion should feel slightly crisp but will have no burning flavor and only  small hinds of the oniony flavor. Let them in the cold water in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to regain some of the crispness.

The meantime mince the mint and mix it with the red pepper, salt and the sushi vinegar. And let it aside. Drain the onion slices very well with paper towels and add the dressing. Mix with your fingers, while you are again slightly crushing the onion wafers. Add the lime and let in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour for the flavors to develop and get to know each other…

Serve with a wafer thin slice of lime on top and a couple of mint leafs for garnish. The salad is extremely refreshing and summery! It has some heat, sweetness, crispiness and all you need to accompany seafood, grilled fish, chicken and vegetables.

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