Weee! I am happy to report that I have seen some Sure Signs of Spring. The asparagus we planted last year is up, the raspberries I "pruned" to within an inch of their lives are sprouting green, and the tulips have not only emerged but are sporting buds. To top it off, Fisher and I picked a whole handful of wild onions on our walk the other day:
I'm not sure what kind of wild onions they are—some people seem to call these ramps, and others wild chives—but they look like an oversized scallion to me. The tops get kind of crinkly and curly, which makes them easy to pick out from lawns and hillsides. We found these growing on the side of the road in Truro near Ryder beach—Fisher was sniffing around for a ball, and suddenly, we were foraging for dinner.
The first few times I tried to pull the onions up I just tugged on the top, and the green part broke off while the bulbs stayed squarely, smugly in the ground. Eventually, I figured out that you have to kind of worm your fingers in around them to loosen the soil up before you give a good yank, and then they come right up.
We found a few daffodils, too, and when we got home, we decided it was spring celebration time. The daffodils went into a glass on the table, pasta water went on to boil, and I set about cleaning onions for a rich, buttery sauce.
The sauce I had in mind comes from James Beard's other cookbook, Beard on Pasta. The basic ingredients are butter, more butter, some onions, sugar, and a splash of Madeira wine. In the past I've made it with plain old storage onions, and it was excellent. I had a feeling that with fresh, wild spring onions, it would be absolutely divine. It was.
The thing about onions and butter is that they have an excellent tendency to caramelize. Leave them with some low heat and plenty of time, and they will get soft, and rich, and sweet. Scoop them over pasta and top them with Parmesan, and they will get better still.
Give it a try. You'll see.
BRAISED ONIONS OVER PASTA
I found this recipe from Beard on Pasta via Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. It is simple, hearty, and delicious, and I think best served alongside a simple salad of arugula dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. The onions are robust, and the greens help keep things light.
1 stick butter
1 pound yellow onions, peeled, halved, and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
1/2 pound wild onions, washed and trimmed so that the roots and the green part are gone, leaving just the bulb
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 pound cooked pasta, still hot (I used linguini, but any type is fine)
salt to taste
Warm up the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions (both kinds) and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the sugar. Let the onions braise slowly for about an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and keeping an eye out for any burning. They should turn a deep, buttery amber.
Turn the heat up to medium-high, and when the pan seems hot, pour in the wine. Cook for a few minutes, until it's reduced by about half.
Spoon the sauce over the pasta and season with salt to taste. Serve hot with shaved Parmesan.