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Spring onions are genetically identical to the common onion, but they look and taste differently because they are planted very close together and harvested prematurely to give a milder flavor than a common onion.
Though spring and green onions are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between them. Spring onions have larger leaves and are harvested after a small bulb has formed. Green onions are harvested before any bulb has formed.
As a milder part of the onion family, shallots complement many foods. They give a more well-rounded and robust flavor rather than a plain, old onion. Shallots, olive oil and garlic are often used as a base for sauces. Caramelized shallots can be served on their own or as an accompaniment to an entree like steak. Try substituting a shallot for an onion in a Thai curry recipe (see recipe below) for an interesting flavor.
Cooking with shallots and spring onions
When preparing shallots, cut off the top and peel off the dry, outer skin. When chopping, cut down to the root end, and then discard that end.
Though shallots work well as a flavoring ingredient, spring onions are best used as a garnish. The best thing about spring onions is their mild flavor, and they do add a nice crunch.
Spring onions go well with rice, pasta dishes, fish and salad mixes. Raw spring onions hold onto their flavor, adding color and texture to a dish. They also can be cooked and added to Asian-style soups.
For an attractive finish to any dish, cut off the green tops of the spring onions and then cut thin, lengthwise pieces about 3/4-inch up from the bottom. Place the slivers into water and they will curl up and make a nice, fancy garnish.
Breakfast just got better with this tasty frittata made with shallots and topped with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil.
2 Tbsps. olive or vegetable oil
5 shallots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Preheat a 9-inch nonstick fry pan on medium heat. Add oil. Add sliced shallots. Stir occasionally until the shallots are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Spread the shallots evenly over the bottom of the pan.
In a bowl, beat the eggs well and add salt and pepper to taste; pour into the pan; cover and cook until the center of the frittata has set and is no longer runny, about 8-10 minutes. Allow the frittata to rest for one minute. Turn the pan over quickly onto a serving plate. Cut into 4 servings and garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Makes 4 servings.
Thai Green Chicken Curry
This dish is best served with steamed rice to help soak up the flavorful sauce. Green curry paste and fish sauce are available in the Asian foods section of most supermarkets.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup sliced shallots
2 tsps. Thai green curry paste
2 tsps. fish sauce
1 (14-oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsps. fresh lime juice, plus wedges for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add sliced shallots and curry paste; stir until shallots become soft, about 2 minutes.
Add fish sauce and coconut milk; bring to a boil. Add chicken strips and bell pepper; stir until chicken is cooked through. Stir in chopped basil and lime juice.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide curry into 4 bowls and garnish with basil sprigs and lime wedges.
Baby Red Potatoes with Mint and Spring Onions
This is a great side dish with steak, pork chops or baked chicken.
2-1/2 lbs. (10-12 small) red potatoes, unpeeled
3 cups cream (or cream and milk, mixed)
6-8 spring onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly steam the potatoes for 5-6 minutes, and then transfer to a lightly greased ovenproof dish. Pour over the cream, spring onions and mint; bake for 15 minutes or until well cooked.
Steaming is not essential, but it will shorten the cooking time in the oven and improve the flavor of the dish. Makes 4 servings.
Fried Pork with Spring Onions
Pork is marinated in rice wine and soy sauce and then stir-fried with green onions or spring onions in this quick and easy stir-fry that is perfect for busy weeknights. It would go nicely with rice or noodles and steamed vegetables.
1/2 lb. pork, shredded
1 Tbsp. rice wine
1 lb. spring onions
2 Tbsps. soy sauce
5 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix pork with the soy sauce and rice wine. Wash spring onions and cut into 2-inch lengths. Heat the oil and sauté the pork. When pork changes color, add spring onions and salt to taste. Mix well and remove from heat before spring onions begin to give off juice. Serve hot with rice or noodles and steamed vegetables. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, email him at email@example.com.