Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Salvaging the onions



I admitted defeat with my onions yesterday -- the stormy, wet weather had beaten them down beyond all redemption. Their green tops were folded over, bedraggled on the ground. Other plants -the tomatoes, the melons, the cucumbers -- have been thriving in this humidity and have grown to gargantuan proportions for this point in the season. Certain parts of my garden look more late August than late June. There was no way for the onions to compete. I pulled out the first broken plants, with their immature bulbs, and brought them to the kitchen for immediate use....so much for my visions of rich French onion soup from my own garden this winter!

I had defrosted some chicken for dinner, and remembered a simple recipe featuring chicken and onions that my husband and I ate almost weekly early in our marriage. I believe every couple must have food like this....staples that once sustained them that for whatever reason -- be it changing tastes or changing fortunes -- have been relegated to memory. This was a dish that we ate a small table in a basement studio apartment in New York City, after long days of school, a first culinary foray into fancier dinners than pasta or eggs. This was a time when I read the Wednesday food section of the Times religiously, cutting out recipes that looked doable in an hour or so, with ingredients that wouldn't stretch our budget too far. This one was courtesy of Mark Bittman, author of the "Minimalist" recipe column, and it is a good recipe. A great one in fact. So great that I am surprised this recipe didn't survive the move to Chicago. It was high time for a stroll down memory lane.

And how glad I am to have local chicken to cook with! My new meat and egg CSA, Grass is Greener Gardens, has been a rousing success for my family. I won't specifically knock the other local meat CSA's I have tried, but I will say that Grass is Greener offers good value, high quality and a responsive staff...things that I found lacking in others. And their chicken is edible without having to braise it for hours on end. So here is a link to the recipe, Chicken with Vinegar. When Bittman originally wrote about it in the newspaper, he listed balsamic vinegar rather than red wine vinegar, which yields a sweeter, more complex sauce. Choose which you want, but I remain true to the 'original' recipe as I knew it. How pleasant to eat an old memory, and this time share it with a son, in our own house with an ingredient from our own yard. We have come a long way from that basement studio, but good recipes stand the test of time, and this one will enter the repertoire once again.

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