Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cucumber-Lime Salsa with Vidalias and Feta Cheese

I love using sweet Vidalia onions in recipes that don’t require cooking. Now that it’s April the baby version of these Georgia-grown onions are available at local markets. They are wonderfully crisp, juicy, mild and of course, sweet.

This salsa is a great topping for grilled meat or meats that are cooked using a pungent spice rub. The freshness of the cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs compliments smoky flavors or warm spices nicely. The sweetness of the Vidalias and the creamy-saltiness of the feta are also a nice contrast of flavors too.

Cucumber-Lime Salsa with Vidalias and Feta Cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
½ baby Vidalia onion, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large handful of parsley, finely chopped
Juice from a lime
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the feta cheese, stir well. Top with feta crumbles. If you’re making this in advance, wait until just before service to season with salt and top with feta.

Baby Vidalia Onions with Spring Zucchini

Baby Vidalia onions, renowned for their sweet flavor, hit local market stands in the spring around March – April, once the onion farmers begin thinning their crops. The sweet onion is named after Vidalia, GA where a local market started selling the sugary alliums in the 1940s.

About half the size of a full grown Vidalia, the baby Vs come in lovely bunches with their crisp greens attached to their juicy white bulbs. They look a bit like big round leeks and their mild, sweet flavor is a welcome addition to springtime meals. The onions are sweet and mild enough to use raw in salads, dressings and salsas. For more info about this wonderful Georgia-grown produce check out the official Vidalia Onion website.

In this dish I caramelize the baby Vs and add another spring favorite of mine, baby zucchini. If you can't find the adorable little squash, feel free to use full sized zuchini and cut it into batons about three inches long.

Punctuated with fresh herbs and lemon zest this dish is simple and allows the mild flavors of the Vidalias and the zucchini to shine. It's delicious and ready in mere minutes.

Zucchini with Baby Vidalia Onions
1 baby Vidalia onion, white only, thinly sliced
1 cup baby zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
zest from ½ a lemon
salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the onions in an even layer and cook without stirring until they begin to brown then stir occasionally to prevent burning while the natural sugars in the onions to caramelize. Add the zucchini and cook covered for about 5 minutes (you may want to add a couple of tablespoons of water if the zucchini are large or thick to cause some steaming). Stir in parsley, lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.