Vail Simply Seasonal: Alien, edible, walking Egyptian onions
July 13, 2010
Alien, but edible. This unusual plant can turn up in the wild, or as a cultivated vegetable, sometimes as an ornamental part of a flower garden. Its stalks grow to a height of up to three feet, then sprout a bulb with a pointy spear on top. The papery shell of the bulb splits open to reveal a round flower which, as it continues to grow, gets heavy, drooping in a graceful swoop. From afar, a field full of these botanicals treats the viewers to a swaying dance, or walk, and they are known as “Walking Egyptian Onions.”
It is folklore that the strange name came from this appearance. What can be confirmed is the relevance of all onions to ancient Egypt. With its concentric layers, the onion represented eternal life. As early as 1160 B.C., Egyptians brought gifts of onions to funerals – it was traditional to bury the Pharoahs with this offering, sending them to the afterlife.
Walking Egyptian onions are a perennial in the U.S. today and the tastiest part is the mid-stalk bulb. It can be harvested as soon as it sheds the papery covering. Left to flower, the bulb will grow heavy and droop to the ground, spreading its seeds for the next year’s crop. In this way it “walks across the garden,” further defining its name.
Along with the bulb, the stalk and root of walking Egyptian onions are edible, resembling the flavor of scallions. In fact, the more easily accessible scallions may be substituted in any dish. They can be eaten raw or cooked and deliver powerful antioxidants to your body, as well as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
“Make a crunchy chopped salad by adding the stalks and bulbs of walking Egyptian onions to carrots, radishes, jicama, peppers, celery, cucumbers, cabbage or any combination of these veggies,” said Dustin Beckner, chef de cuisine at Restaurant Avondale. “Bind with olive oil, fresh lime juice and a little chopped cilantro for a refreshing summer salad.”
Summer sausage skewers
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1 pound chicken sausage links – any flavor, spicy or sweet
1 bunch Egyptian onions (or scallions)
2 pounds cherry tomatoes, red and/or yellow
1 large bunch fresh basil
1⁄4 pound asiago cheese, shaved
1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash cherry tomatoes and cut in half. Place in bowl and season with salt and pepper. Whisk vinegar and oil together and combine with tomatoes and onions. Let sit at room temperature. Grill sausages till done and let cool. Slice into 1⁄2-inch rounds. Remove onions from marinade and grill till soft. Slice into one inch segments. Select perfect basil leaves. Drain tomatoes in colander. Skewer the components – sausage, onion, tomato half, asiago shaving, basil leaf.
Makes 36 hors d’oeuvres.
Onion and sundried tomato foccacia
12⁄3 cup warm water (barely hot to the wrist)
13⁄4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
51⁄2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups flour
11⁄4 teaspoons salt
1⁄2 cup Egyptian onions, chopped
1⁄2 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
Coarse kosher salt
Pour 2⁄3 cup warm water into a two-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle yeast, then sugar over and stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture bubbles, 5-7 minutes. Add 1 cup warm water and 41⁄2 tablespoons oil. Mix flour and 11⁄4 teaspoons salt in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Pour in yeast mixture. Attach dough hook, beat at medium low speed until flour is moistened but looks shaggy about 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium; beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and climbs hook, about 10 minutes (dough will be like sticky batter).
Mix onions, tomatoes, rosemary, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Add to dough and beat 1 minute to incorporate. Lightly oil a large bowl. Scrape dough into bowl. Brush top of dough with oil. Brush plastic wrap with oil; cover bowl, oiled side down. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled, 1-2 hours. Gently turn dough several times with spatula to deflate. Re-cover bowl with oiled plastic; chill overnight (dough will rise).
Sprinkle two large rimmed baking sheets with flour. Using spatula, deflate dough by stirring or folding over several times. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Place 1 piece on floured work surface; sprinkle with four. Roll out dough to 12-by-8-inch rectangle sprinkling with flour to keep from sticking. Transfer dough to sheet.
Using a sharp paring knife, cut four 2-inch-long diagonal slashes just to right of center of rectangle and 4 more just to left of center to create pattern resembling leaf veins. Pull slashes apart with fingertips to make 1 inch wide openings. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover both with kitchen towel and let rest 20 minutes. Beat 2 teaspoons water and 1 tablespoon oil in small bowl to blend for glaze.
Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Brush foccacias with glaze, sprinkle with coarse salt and pierce all over with fork. Bake 10 minutes then rotate positions in oven. Bake 10 minutes more or until golden. Transfer to racks to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 2.
Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, (larkspurvail.com) at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.