Specialty Produce Recipe of the Month: Cipollini Onions

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I’ve never been a chef who pulls an ingredient into a recipe for shock value.

The gimmicky, the rare, the nearly extinct, and other exotic edibles might find their way onto the menus of celebrity chefs and into the mouths of their patrons, but I for one, have always felt that an ingredient has to make a substantial and genuine contribution to a dish beyond its rarity or conversational appeal.

Yes, to some degree, food is art, but food should not be something you stare at, trying to understand what the artist had in mind when he or she created it.

Having said that, while the specialty produce we sell at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace may be new to you, it certainly isn’t anything unusual to the millions of people in other parts of the world who enjoy these tasty foods in their native dishes.

So as a way of bridging the international foods gap between what you already know you like and what you may find you absolutely love, I’ll introduce you to some of our specialty produce items here at Nino’s, sharing recipes and videos for you to enjoy.

An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.
~ Will Rogers

I think a good place to start is with a vegetable (onion) that most everyone enjoys but in a variety (Cipollini) you’ve probably never tried. And while Cipollinis may not make you laugh, the recipe I’m going to share with you might make you smile when you taste how delicious these onions are.

Pronounced “chip-oh-LEE-nee,” Cipollini onions look and taste like small onions, which is why they are also called wild onions. In truth, however, they’re actually the bittersweet bulbs of the Grape Hyacinth flower.

Who would have guessed?

Generally no more than 2 inches in diameter, the flesh of the Cipollini is a slight yellowish color, and the skins are thin and papery. Their shape lends them well to roasting. This, combined with their sweetness, makes for a lovely addition to recipes in which you might want to use whole, caramelized onions.

Actually, calling them Cipollini onions is a bit redundant, as Cipollini is the Italian term used for many types of small onions. But since many customers may not know what Cipollinis are, the extra definition is understandable.

Cipollini onions are turning up on the menus of some of this country’s best chefs from coast to coast. They’re not gimmicky; what they ARE is delicious.

Chili Roasted Cipollini Onions

Ingredients:

Serves 4

2 dozen Cipollini Onions
1 TBSP Molasses, Unsulfured
As Needed Boiling Water
¼ tsp Liquid Smoke (Hickory or Mesquite)
1 tsp Garlic, Fresh, Minced
1 TBSP Cumin Powder
½ cup Ketchup
1 ½ TBSP Chili Powder
3 TBSP Cider Vinegar
2 TBSP Brown Sugar
To Taste Salt & Pepper

Method:

1. Place Cipollini onions in boiling water and simmer one minute. Then, remove from water and shock in ice water.
2. Peel off skins and place onions in a small roasting pan or ovenproof casserole dish.
3. Mix together garlic, ketchup, cider vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, liquid smoke, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small dish; pour over Cipollinis; and stir to coat.
4. Place casserole dish in a pre-heated 375 F oven and bake approximately 30 minutes or until the onions are just tender.
5. Serve as a hot side dish, with roasted meats, or chilled, with sandwiches and relish dishes.