To many, onions are the black sheep of the vegetable world. The complaints launched against them make them sound like archetypal school bullies. They smell bad. They make people cry. They taste funny (as would, I imagine, any irritable school bully out of whom you happened to take a bite).

However, they say love is blind, and I am entirely blind to these so-called faults. Onions, to me, smell wonderful, especially when they are sautéing in a little olive oil over medium heat with a healthy heaping of sweet paprika. I also think they taste delicious. Sure, your basic red onions might be a little bitter when raw, but they would be sorely missed in any tomato sauces, soups, or stir-fries that shunned their presence. Have any Vidalias on hand? I’ll happily eat those small, sugary onions raw and plain, à la “Shrek” or “Holes.”

These recipes (one for roasted onion and one for roasted garlic, another pungent vegetable in the “Allium” family) come from a cookbook called “The Onion Harvest Cookbook,” gifted to me by an equally passionate onion lover. Roasting onion and garlic makes both of these characteristically sharp flavors sweet and soft. These recipes are also the best type for a busy chef: they require little preparation, and once you put them in the oven you can forget about them for the better part of an hour.

And when onions make me cry? I say they’re tears of joy.


Roasted Garlic

(Adapted from “The Onion Harvest Cookbook”)

1 head garlic

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Prepare the head of garlic. First, chop off the base of the garlic, exposing the cloves. Then, remove most of the outer layers of paper, leaving one or two in order to hold the head together.

3. Place the head of garlic in a cupcake tin, with the exposed base on top. Drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil and salt, letting the oil seep into the cloves.

4. Place garlic in the oven, and let it roast for 30-35 minutes or until the cloves are brown and soft.

5. Let the garlic cool, and break into cloves, leaving the skin of the individual cloves intact. Squeeze garlic from the paper onto crackers or straight into your mouth. If desired, top with lemon, vinegar, or herbs.


Roasted Shallots with Herb Dressing

(Adapted from “The Onion Harvest Cookbook”)

8 large shallots

1 4-inch sprig of fresh rosemary

2 4-inch sprigs of fresh thyme

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Remove both end of the shallots, and make a deep crosscut in the root end. Place the shallots in a casserole dish. (Note: Surprising as it seems, the peel should remain on the shallots to lock in the flavor.)

3. To prepare the dressing, remove the herbs from their stems and blend them with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper for about five seconds until the ingredients are combined.

4. Add the dressing to the shallots in the casserole dish, turning the shallots to ensure they are completely coated. Cover the dish (tinfoil will do) and roast for 40 minutes or until the shallots are soft and easily pierced. Serve.

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