Onion: the vegetable cooks turn to more than any other

What vegetable does the cook turn to more than any other? Let Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) give you the answer: ''For this is every cook's opinion, no savoury dish without an onion. . . ''

Originally this vegetable purported to make men valiant but later it enlivened dull food, for that is one of its most valuable properties, an ability to bring out the flavor of anything with which it is combined, assertive but not arrogant or overpowering.

Some famous chefs have raised onions from social ostracism to a place of honor on their menus and in the sauces: Bechamel, Soubise, and Savarin.

Multipurpose and most common is the Yellow Globe. Large golden Spanish and Bermuda are noted for their mild flavor and are delicious raw.

The small white onions are used for pickling, stews, or as a sauced vegetable. The purple onions add color to salads but tend to disintegrate and lose their mild flavor when cooked.

For those of you who really enjoy onion, here is a selection of recipes from an onion chowder to a savory onion pie. Onion Chowder 2 strips lean bacon, diced 2 cups chopped yellow onion 2 cups water 3 medium-size potatoes, diced 2 cups milk 1/2 cup light cream or evaporated milk 2 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon flour 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Fry bacon in deep saucepan or kettle until brown. Add onions and saute, removing bacon before it gets too dark. Add potatoes and water. Cook until tender and return bacon to mixture. Add milk, light cream, or evaporated milk, and seasonings.

Make a roux of the flour and butter. Thin with a little of the heated milk and stir into soup. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Serves 4. Onion Upside Down Cake 6 medium-size Spanish onions 3 tablespoons butter 2 cups flour, measured after sifting 4 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 egg, beaten 1 1/4 cups milk

Slice onions and saute in butter until yellow and soft. Let cool a little. Keep in slices if possible. Make a batter of other ingredients by sifting all dry items together, then adding egg and milk. Batter should be a little thinner than biscuit dough.

Spread onions in a greased baking dish, slice touching slice. Pour dough on top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes in a 350-degree F. oven. Serve with roast beef or other meat. Serves 4. Two-Crust Savory Onion Pie Pastry for two-crust pie 5 cups thinly sliced onions 1/2 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Line an 8- or 9-inch pie tin with half of pastry. Scatter raw sliced onion inside pastry-lined pie tin. Sprinkle with flour, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cover with top pastry and bake in preheated 425-degree F. oven for 1 hour. Serve hot with roast beef or lamb. Serves 6. Onion Lasagna 1/4 pound small white onions (about 6) 4 tablespoons butter or margarine 1/4 pound mushrooms 1 large fresh tomato 1 8-ounce carton cottage cheese 12 ounces wide noodles 1/4 pound grated sharp cheese 1/8 pound sliced American cheese Salt and pepper

Chop onions and saute in butter or margarine until golden. Add mushrooms and tomato, cut in small pieces. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add cottage cheese, mixing well with sauce.

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain on paper towels. Place in buttered baking dish. Spread with sauce. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Lay sliced cheese on top of that. Season, and repeat until all noodles and sauce are used. Place baking pan in a shallow pan of water and bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 1 hour. Serves 4. Onion Custard With Cheese 6 large white onions Milk 4 slices buttered toast 1/2 cup grated American cheese 1 egg 1 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon paprika 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Peel onions and slice crosswise. Poach in milk until tender. Drain well. Place toast in a buttered baking dish. Arrange onions on toast. Sprinkle with cheese. Beat well egg, milk, salt, and paprika. Pour this mixture over onions. Dot top with 1 tablespoon butter or margarine. Bake in a 350-degree F. oven for 40 minutes. Serves 4.

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