Not just another sweet onion, the Vidalia onion, like French wine, can only be grown in a particular part of southeastern Georgia. The sandy soil and its low level of sulfur produces an onion that's both sweet and mild, which, some argue, can be eaten like an apple (if eating raw onions is your thing.) The season is short: Vidalias last only from late April to September.
Relatively speaking, Vidalias haven't been around that long. They're actually a hybrid from Texas that once planted in Georgia in the 1930s, grew squat and stayed sweet. In 1986, Georgia passed the Vidalia Onion Act and certified 20 counties as the onion's production area.
What to buy
Look for a smooth onion with its outer skin intact. Avoid any that show signs of mold or abrasions. Onions should be stored in a cool, dark place. Because Vidalias have a higher water content than other onions, the refrigerator crisper drawer is a good storage spot.
How to prepare
If you're not quite ready to eat a Vidalia out of hand, you can wrap it in foil and roast it with butter in the oven. Vidalia onions make excellent onion rings and French onion soup; they are also great raw in salads and can be sautéed with mushrooms as a savory complement to steak.
Caramelized Vidalia Onion and Goat's Milk Ricotta Tartlet
Kevin LaCivita, chef and owner of Carytown's Pomegranate, shares a recipe using sweet Vidalia onions.
For the goat's milk ricotta:
- 1 quart of goat's milk
- 1/4 cup of white vinegar
Heat the goat's milk in a large saucepan until it reaches 180 degrees. Remove the pan from heat. Allow to cool to 130 degrees and then add 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, ladle out the curds and strain through cheesecloth for 2 hours. For the crust:
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of
- baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup of ice cubes
In a food processer, combine the dry ingredients and pulse once or twice. Add cubes of cold butter, one piece at a time, and pulse until the mixture resembles sand. Add the ice cubes, one at a time, pulsing, until the dough forms into a ball. Place in a bowl, cover with a towel and chill. For the carmelized onions:
- 1 Vidalia onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
Heat a medium-sized pan over high heat and add the olive oil. When it's hot, add the onion and sauté, scraping the pan to get up all of the browned bits. Cook until dark brown. Roll out the dough for the crust and transfer to a 9-inch tart pan. And finally:
- Goat's milk ricotta
- Caramelized onion
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup of fresh spinach, rinsed, de-stemmed and dried
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, add the onions, the goat's milk ricotta, caramelized onion, the eggs, the spinach, the basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently combine. Pour into the tart crust and smooth. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool, and serve at room temperature.