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Carrie's Kitchen: Getting the most out of spring/green/young onions

Carrie's Kitchen: Getting the most out of spring/green/young onions
Bunch of spring onions on white chopping board are displayed. This week in Carrie's Kitchens, three recipes making good use of spring onions. (Getty Images)

We are still in the green stage of summer produce, and this week’s “green” that I’d like to write about is spring onions.

Spring onions can be the young onions from different kind of onions, growing in different shapes and colors and flavors. Technically a “spring onion” has the bulb shape, but is usually smaller than a plum. When they have no bulb shape to them yet, they are referred to as scallions or green onions.

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Shallots, on the other hand, are a different plant, but we won’t get into that now. All of them are considered milder than a fully grown onion.

There were beautiful spring onions at the Downtown Westminster Farmers Market last weekend, and they got me looking for recipes that could really highlight their flavor. There were a ton of sources telling you just to go ahead and roast them in the oven or cook them over the grill and eat them on their own, but I don’t find that much of a challenge. So I went with some more interesting choices.

First up, I found this mouthwatering recipe for an asparagus and spring onion croque monsieur, which is a toasted sandwich with a béchamel sauce (a very easy white sauce made from onions, butter, flour and milk). OK, so here the asparagus and onions are roasted in the oven together, but that’s only part of the recipe. You also take a few nice slices of country bread and broil them in the oven, then top them with the creamy béchamel sauce, cover them in the roasted veggies, then cover it all with a rich and earthy cheese like gruyere or comte, and you broil it all again to get the cheese to melt. What a perfect dish for these rainy days we’ve been having.

Second, I found an Indian dish for spring onion curry. This is made with mostly familiar ingredients, with the possible exception of onion seeds, but I haven’t really looked for onion seeds in the grocery store yet. I wonder if you could also use organic seeds from the gardening section, but perhaps that should be a last resort. The curry has tomatoes, green chiles (use whatever spice level you are comfortable with), a couple of flavorful spices and some garlic ginger paste (look in the Asian section of the grocery store, or just grate your own garlic and fresh ginger), and you serve it with Indian bread. The author recommended a bread type I was unfamiliar with, called chapathis, but I looked it up and it’s pretty much a thinner version of naan, so naan will make a good replacement.

And finally, because I’ve just been craving biscuits, cheese biscuits with scallions. The recipe recommends Parmesan, but I like cheddar in a biscuit. And really do take the time to sprinkle the top with salt, it gives it that professional touch and really hits the tongue in a satisfying way.

Enjoy!

Asparagus and spring onion croque monsieur

For the béchamel sauce:

1 tablespoon butter

¼ medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt

2 black peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup whole milk

1 bay leaf

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For the croque monsieur:

Asparagus and/or spring onions, ends trimmed

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Good bread, cut into thick slices

Grated gruyère, Comté or Swiss cheese

Fresh thyme

To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, salt, and cracked peppercorns (if using), and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but has not begun to color. Remove from the heat and add the flour in two batches, whisking to combine it with the onion and butter.

Return the pan to the stove and over low heat, cook a few minutes, until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t brown. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the milk. Drop in the bay leaf.

Return the pan to the stove, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the taste of raw flour is gone and the mixture is thick, smooth and silky. If it’s too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you’ll need to whisk in a little more milk.

To make the sandwich: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the asparagus and spring onions with olive oil and kosher salt on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the vegetables until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Test with a knife for doneness.

Preheat the broiler. Place the slices of bread on a sheet pan and broil them about a minute on each side. Remove pan from the oven. Spread the desired amount of béchamel over each slice of bread. Top with the roasted vegetables. Top with grated cheese to taste.

Broil until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown. Sprinkle with the fresh thyme and serve immediately.

Spring onion curry

1 bunch spring onions

1 onion

2 tomatoes

2 green chilies

½ teaspoon onion seeds

1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon oil

Wash the spring onions and chop the white onion bulbs from the greens separately. Chop the white and green part finely and keep them separately. Chop the onion, tomatoes and green chilies finely and keep aside.

Heat a pan with oil. Add onion seeds, and when it sizzles, add the finely chopped white part of the spring onion and sauté over high heat for 30 seconds.

Reduce the flame and add the chopped onions and sauté till the onion becomes translucent.

Add ginger garlic paste and sauté for a minute. Add chopped green chilies, tomatoes, salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes till the tomatoes become mushy. Add chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and mix well. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons water and cook for 2 minutes till the raw smell disappears.

Now add the chopped green part of the spring onion and mix well and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes till it wilts.

Add ¼ cup water, mix well, close the pan with a lid and cook for 4-5 minutes till the raw smell disappears and the gravy thickens up a bit. Add garam masala powder, mix well for the flavors to merge well.

Take off stove and serve hot with naan bread.

Cheese biscuits

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Dash cayenne

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons baking powder

7 tablespoons butter, cold

2 scallions, finely chopped

3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (or other preferred cheese)

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¾ cup buttermilk

Kosher, Maldon, or black salt for topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cayenne, black pepper, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Dice the butter into small pieces. If they get too warm then place them in a bowl and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes before continuing.

Toss the diced butter with the flour mixture until well coated. (Again, if into tossing the butter gets hot in your hands place the whole mixture in the freezer for a few minutes.)

Add the scallions and cheese and toss until well coated.

Add the buttermilk and mix with your hands until it just comes together. You may find you need an extra dribble of buttermilk, if so then go right ahead but do so judiciously. Do not over-knead.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice; no more. Form into an 8-by-8-inch square and cut into 2-by-2-inch squares and top with a bit of high-quality salt if using.

Bake at 425 degrees for 12-16 minutes or until golden.

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