Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Featured Item—Ailsa Craig Onions

I honestly cannot imagine a world without onions.  I may hate to cut them and they make me cry, but they are so much a part of my culinary world that I can’t seem to keep enough of them in the house.  They form the basis of so many dishes worldwide.  Consider that they are the common ingredient of “aromatics” in several countries and localities in the form of mire poix (France), soffritto (Italy), sofrito (Spain), and the “holy trinity”(Cajun), among others.  Aromatics are combinations of chopped vegetables which form the flavor basis for thousands of dishes, from soups and sauces to succulent meat braises.

More than just flavor enhancers, onions have much to recommend them nutritionally.  They are low calorie, but contain good amounts of fiber, folate, B- vitamins, and vitamin C.  They are also high in antioxidants, which mean they help the body remove free radicals which can contribute to many different diseases (Nutrition Data , National Onion Association)

Onions hail from the Allium family, which includes other invaluable treats such as garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions and chives.  The onion is the edible bulb of the plant that has been harvested and sometimes cured (dried), or left “fresh”.  While there are super sweet varieties of onions, your typical cured storage onion is sharp and pungent when raw and gets milder and sweeter with cooking.

We are so lucky to be able to sample an heirloom variety of fresh onion this week called Ailsa Craig.  They are a type of yellow Spanish onion that has come to us by way of the British Isles.  In fact, this variety of onion is named after a rocky Craig off the west coast of Scotland.

Ailsa Craig onions are considered perhaps the largest onion that can be grown in a short growing season.  They can get upwards of five pounds, but are often in the two-pound range.  Ours will be slightly smaller than that.  They are known as a particularly mild, sweet onion, great raw or cooked.

Because these onions are “fresh” versus cured, they need to be stored in plastic in the refrigerator and used within a couple of weeks.  Like scallions, onion greens are edible, but may seem a bit tougher than a typical scallion green.  Try using them as garnish on salads, soups, or other cooked dishes.  If you are really daring, use them any way you would scallion greens.  See recipe below for a wonderful Onion Top Chimichurri.

If you happen to have an abundance of onions on hand (any kind), they can be frozen.  They can be peeled and frozen whole, or chopped and frozen in portions (freeze on a tray and then transfer to smaller packages once frozen).  However, the resultant product is only good for cooked preparations.


This salad is one I continually adapt from Jean Coates”, The Ultimate Cooking From 4 Ingredient Cookbook.

Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad with Dill                                    Serves 4


– 3-4 large cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced

– 1 small/medium Ailsa Craig onion, very thinly sliced

– 1/3 cup white wine vinegar

– 2 tablespoons sugar

– 2 tablespoons fresh minced dill

– 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Place cucumbers and onion in a medium bowl.  In small bowl, whisk vinegar, sugar, dill, and pepper until sugar dissolves.  Pour over cucumbers and onion and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Toss again to coat well.  Serve.


Chimichurri is an Argentinean condiment that is routinely served with grilled or roasted meats.  This version is pungent yet addictive (a little goes a long way) with the inclusion of onion greens.  Try it with any meat or fish, but I think it goes especially well with rich meats, like beef or lamb.  We had it on top of grilled skirt steak that was rubbed with Mexican spices.  Recipe can be halved, but you may need to use a mini processor to achieve the best results.

Onion Top Chimichurri                                                Makes about 1 cup


– 1 cup sliced fresh onion tops or scallion greens, packed

– 1 1/2 cups fresh parsley, packed

– 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

– 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more according to desired heat level

– 1/4 teaspoon salt

– 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil


Place all ingredients into a food processor.  Pulse until highly minced but not a smooth paste like pesto, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Will keep for about 1 week.


I developed this recipe to use up an extra large zucchini I picked up from the farm.  My husband, who is not a big zucchini fan, loved these little cakes!

Adobo Zucchini Cakes with Chipotle Sauce                                    Serves 4


– 3 cups shredded zucchini

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1/4 cup minced onion greens or scallions

– 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

– 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

– 1 minced jalapeno pepper, seeded

– 1 cup finely grated Manchego cheese, or use Parmesan as a substitute

– 1 tablespoon Adobo seasoning with salt

– 1/3 cup peanut oil

– Sauce

– 1/2 cup light or regular mayonnaise

– juice of 1 lime, or a bit less, to tast

– 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced

– 1/2 tablespoon Adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers


1. Combine grated zucchini and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a colander until well mixed.  Allow to sit and drain for 30 minutes.  Place zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and twist out as much liquid as possible.  Transfer drained zucchini to a medium bowl.

2. To zucchini, add onion greens, panko, eggs, Manchego, jalapeño, and adobo seasoning.  Mix well.  Chill for 20-30 minutes.  Pat mixture into 8 cakes and place on a baking sheet.

3. Heat oil in a large 12″ skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add zucchini cakes and cook, about 3-5 minutes per side, until well browned.  Once done, turn cakes out onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

4. To make sauce:  Combine mayonnaise, juice of 1 lime, chipotle pepper, and Adobo sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve zucchini cakes hot with sauce on the side.

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