The onion is now probably the most universally used vegetable and flavoring agent in cooking, both at home and in restaurants. There are countless varieties, with the very small ones such as mustard and cress often grown in boxes and eaten in salads.
Spring onions or scallions and chives, next in size, are very familiar. The spring onions are often ordinary onions pulled when the bed of seedlings needs thinning.
In England the name Spanish onions is used for any large, mild-flavored onion and in the United States the red variety is also popular as a mild variety.
The tree, or Egyptian, onion (Allium Cepa var. viviparum) is another variety which produces small bulbs instead of flowers, as well as larger bulbs at the roots. Some in my garden, left by a previous tenant, are up very early in the spring and keep growing all summer long.
Bermuda onions are large and mild in flavor, like the Spanish onion.
The Welsh onion, or cibol, and the nebuka are perennials and produce not onions but small leeks with tubular leaves; they are Japanese in origin.
The sand-leek, or rochambole, from the Danish rokenbolle (onion on rocks), which resembles the Welsh onion, is grown in parts of Ireland, England, and the US and has a slightly garlicy flavor.
Some members of the onion family such as chives are not grown for the bulbs but for the leaves, which have a mild onion flavor. The Chinese garlic-onion has a mild but distinctive garlic, rather than onion flavor, although it is somewhat stronger than chives.
Shallots are similar to green onions but grow in clusters and have very little swelling at the base.
Leeks are much larger than shallots, have slight bulb formation and broad, flat, dark green tops. They are plentiful in spring and summer and very easy to grow.
A classic French onions sauce is called a Soubise Sauce. All dishes with the name Soubise include onions but the sauce is especially good on almost any kind of meat. It is also rather elegant used to cover broiled, boned lamb chops placed on artichoke hearts. Here is the recipe. Soubise Sauce 2 tablespoons butter 2 Tablespoons flour 2 cups beef broth 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 4 onions, minced 4 tablespoons butter 3 to 4 tablespoons light cream 1 to 2 tablespoons softened butter
Melt 2 tablespoons butter, stir in flour and cook, stirring for several minutes. Add beef broth, salt, and pepper and stir until smooth and thick. Saute onions in 4 tablespoons butter until soft. Add to thickened sauce and simmer 15 minutes. Blend in cream and softened butter just before serving. French Onion Loaf 1 large onion, minced 1/4 cup butter 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced 1 tablespoon sesame seeds 1 clove garlic, minced 2 cups flour 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 cup hot, not boiling, water 1/4 cup butter 1 egg 1 package dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water 2 cups flour
Heat together onion, butter, cheese, parsley, sesame seeds, and garlic until butter melts and onion is limp. Combine in large mixing bowl the flour, salt, hot water, butter, egg, and yeast dissolved in water. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in 2 cups flour.
Cover and let rise 1 hour. Punch down and knead a few minutes on floured board until no longer sticky. Roll up to 18 by 12 inches. Spread with onion filling. Cut lengthwise into 3 4-inch strips. Fold each strip over lengthwise to make 2-inch strip. Braid on a buttered cookie sheet. Cover and let rise 1 hour. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Sour Cream Onion Pie 9-inch pie pastry 2 1/4 cups thinly sliced onions 4 tablespoons butter or margarine 2 tablespoons flour 1 pint sour cream 3 eggs, slightly beaten 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1/2 teaspoon paprika Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with pastry dough. Prick well with a fork and bake at 450 degrees F. For 10 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned.
Saute onions over medium heat in butter until soft about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Blend in flour. Cook, stirring for a minute or two. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour into crust.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 40 minutes or until filling if firm and golden. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Cut into small squares and serve as hors d'oeuvre or larger pieces for a luncheon main course.
To help remove odors from the hands, rub a lemon slice, vinegar, salt, or celery tops briskly between the fingers, then wash with soap and water. for the breath, chew a sprig of parsley or a clove.