Monday, June 29, 2009

tuscan onion salad

This recipe makes me feel ungrateful. After all, it was only two months ago that I was extolling the virtues of Paula Wolfert's slow roasted onions, convinced that I had found the onion salad to end all onion salads. (Indeed, what kind of reasonable person needs more than one onion salad in their culinary oeuvre?)

Then I stumbled across this vintage NY Times recipe, and suddenly one onion salad seemed painfully insufficient. Sure, Wolfert's version was delicious, but why hadn't she included some kind of garlic-rubbed crouton? Where was the salty bite of Parmesan cheese? Or the brightness of fresh lemon juice? On Saturday, presented with an opportunity to grill outside, I finally succumbed to temptation.

I wish that I could say that, having strayed, I recognized the error of my ways and returned to Wolfert's reliable older model. But that's just not the case. As tasty as Paula Woflert's version was, this is better. With its layers of wilted onion florets, parsley, parmesan, and lemon juice, it's more than a salad; it's a sculpture, a beautiful homage to the onion and its many faces.

It's Onion Salad 2.0.

Vincent Scotto's Onion Salad
Adapted from the NY Times

By necessity, we used Vidalia rather than yellow onions, which as M. put it, downgraded this salad from a PG-13 to a PG rating. But they were delicious all the same.

4 large yellow onions, unpeeled
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
2 slices Tuscan bread, 3/4-inch thick
1 clove garlic, peeled, halved
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat a griddle over medium-low heat until hot. Cut off the ends of each onion so that you can see the rings. Cut the onions crosswise into 3/4-inch to 1-inch slices, keeping the rings intact and the skins on as much as possible. Brush cut sides generously with oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill slices until tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes per side, and set aside. (If they burn, scrape off the charred portion.) Once cool, remove the remaining skins and separate into rings.

2. Meanwhile, grill the bread until toasted. Rub on both sides with the cut sides of the garlic and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of oil and salt. Cut into crouton-size pieces.

3. To serve, place half the onions on a plate, then sprinkle with half the parsley, half the parmesan and half the croutons. Repeat with the remaining ingredients on top. Drizzle with the lemon juice and the remaining oil.

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