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 at Holcomb Farm to be able to sample an heirloom variety of fresh onion called Ailsa Craig. Ailsa Craig onions 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.

Here are some fun ideas for onions I have come across recently in print and online sources:

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 resulting 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 (or stevia to taste)

– 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.


I developed this recipe as an easy weeknight use of the tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini that are plentiful right now. You could easily add bell peppers to this dish if we are so lucky as to receive them in the share. The thyme can be substituted with fresh parsley or basil, however parsley and basil should be added at the end of cooking.

Mid-Summer Veggie Goulash                                     Serves 6


– 1 medium Ailsa Craig onion, chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 small jalapeno, seeded, deribbed, and minced

– 1 tablespoon cooking oil of choice

– 3 medium tomatoes, chopped

– 1 medium eggplant, chopped into 1/2″ cubes

– 1 teaspoon sea salt

– 1 medium zucchini, chopped in to 1/2″ cubes

– 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed

– 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


In a medium stockpot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add tomatoes and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add eggplant and salt, stir to mix well and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and mix well. Cover again and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until vegetables are the desired level of tenderness. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and serve.


As you know by now, I love my spiralized zucchini. Here is a new recipe using this fabulous pasta substitute that I adapted from the PaleoOMG blog . My husband could not get enough of this dish. He had two servings and then proceeded to eat the rest of mine!

If you don’t own a spiralizer, you can make zucchini noodles with a vegetable peeler and a knife. Using the vegetable peeler, peel long strips of zucchini. Or for thicker noodles cut thin lengthwise strips with a knife. Stack the strips and using a knife, cut lengthwise into noodles according to your size preference. They won’t spiral, but they will have noodle-like texture and will be delicious.

Thai Zucchini Noodle Bowl                                                                Serves 4


– 1 pound ground pork, or chicken or turkey

– 1/2 large onion, chopped

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

– 1 large bell pepper (red or other), or two small, sliced into thin strips

– 2 large carrots, shredded

– 2 large zucchinis, or 3 medium, spiralized

– 1 14 1/2 ounce can coconut milk

– 1/2 cup peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower seed butter

– 1/4 cup coconut aminos, or 2 tablespoon soy sauce to taste

– 1 teaspoon Asian chili garlic sauce, or 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes

– 1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste

– juice of 1/2 lime

– optional toppings

– chopped fresh cilantro

– Chopped fresh peanuts or cashews


  1. Cut zucchini strands at least once in half so they are not so long (otherwise they tend to tangle up and are more difficult to eat). Place zucchini noodles in a colander in the sink and sprinkle lightly with salt, shaking up and turning the zucchini strands to evenly coat with the salt. Allow to drain for at least 10 minutes. Place a clean towel on a work surface and place zucchini in the middle of the towel. Draw up edges of towel and squeeze zucchini strands of excess water. Set aside.
  2. In a 12” skillet, cook pork on medium heat, breaking up with a spoon as you go, until brown and cooked through. Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add red pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini noodles and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently until noodles are desired level of tenderness, at least 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat coconut milk, nut butter, soy sauce/aminos, chili garlic sauce, and curry paste, whisking to blend. Allow to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sesame oil and lime juice. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Turn meat and vegetables out into a large bowl. Pour hot sauce over mixture and using tongs, coat mixture evenly with sauce. Stir in chopped cilantro. Serve in bowls topped with peanuts or cashews.
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