Monday, February 4, 2008

I Dream of Onions

It’s not true.

I don’t really dream of onions. I am one of those blessed souls who sleeps like a rock, whose eyes gently shut and she drifts off into unconsciousness for the next eight hours. If I dream at all, I don’t remember it the next day.

But oh, do I daydream! Mostly about food and sex. As a biologist, I feel these daydreams are perfectly defensible, seeing as how food and sex are major biological forces. I really need food and sex. And it’s cyclical: sex drives creatures to reproduce (which, in my opinion, is really the only “meaning of life” in any concrete sense of the phrase), and reproduction requires huge amounts of energy, i.e., food, and so after sex, the best thing to do is eat.

Ahem. As I was saying about onions, clearly onions belong in the food category rather than the sex category. Or is it clear? I once dated a guy who didn’t like onions. K, as we shall call him, ate an entire bowl of my homemade soup, lavishing enthusiastic praise upon it, but he meticulously avoided every piece of onion in that bowl. Sacrilege! There was a sad, sorry pool of uneaten onions that made me weep as I flushed them away. In his defense, K claimed to like the taste of onions but not the eating of onions themselves. A little bizarre, I know, but palates are like that. Poor K: he’s missing out, and not just because he let a good one like me get away!

Smart men, like my friend Matt, know better. I’ve already shared with you Matt’s Spinach and Orange Salad, garnished with the thinnest of raw onion slices. That man can, and does, seduce with onions. Now allow me to introduce to you another bold salad companion, the scallion.

In one word, raw scallions are best described as potent. They are sharp, almost hot in flavor. When left raw and wild, scallions impart a spicy green note in an otherwise tame salad of lightly dressed steamed carrots and broccoli. They are the soaring electric guitar above the rhythm section of produce. Scallions are powerful.

And so today I bring you my newest favorite salad, Steamed Vegetable Salad with Scallions. Consider this part of my on-going effort to keep you eating green stuff all winter long. Perhaps steamed vegetables sound like diet food. Let me assure you this salad is not meant to punish you! It’s a lovable combination of two everyday vegetables, broccoli and carrots, which are lightly steamed separately, then tossed with a tablespoon or two of vegan Caesar dressing and a chopped scallion. Each bite is laced with the sweetness of carrot, the subtle earthiness of broccoli, the savory richness of the dressing, and the spicy heat of scallion. It’s a downright dreamy salad.

Perhaps the only downside to eating raw scallions is the scary breath and lingering flavor they leave behind in the mouth. This, I must confess, I do not enjoy. To tame the lingering wild scallion, I like to follow dinner with a big mug of mint tea. It does wonders for the breath and the belly.

Steamed Vegetable Salad with Scallions
Inspired by and adapted from “Winter Vegetable Salad with Chickpeas” in Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon
Serves 1 (multiply as needed)

1-2 carrots, thickly sliced on the diagonal
1 head of broccoli florets, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 scallion, thinly sliced into rings
1-2 tbsp. Spectrum Naturals Vegan Caesar Dressing
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Either separately or in succession, steam the carrots and broccoli until tender-crisp. I recommend not steaming them together because the broccoli will be tender-crisp much faster than the carrots. By the way, “tender-crisp” really just means to taste. I think of it as steaming vegetables to take the raw edge off of them, soften them up a little.
2) Place the steamed carrots and broccoli in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the scallions and dressing. Toss to combine. Taste, add a bit more dressing and/or salt and pepper if needed. Toss again and repeat until the seasonings are just right to you.

* As an aside, feel free to play with the carrot-to-broccoli ratio. I like a one-to-one ratio, but it all depends on the size of your carrots and the size of your head of broccoli.


Asmodeus said...

Your friend Matt seems pretty cool. He can slice onions wafer thin and knows vocabulary words like "transformative."

Then again, you have quite a way with words and food yourself. I wonder if, perhaps, he's a better cook when you are around than otherwise?

Rosiecat said...

Asmodeus, I think you would like Matt. He's pretty damn amazing. He's constantly teaching me new things. And he likes onions!

If he is a better cook when I am around, it is only because I am happy to chop the vegetables, rinse the spinach, and otherwise assist him so he can concentrate on fancy things like layering flavors and stewing the chickpeas to tender perfection. That man has a way with chickpeas.

I, on the other hand, have a history of burning things when he is around, so I'm afraid my cooking suffers from his distracting presence. Thankfully, he's pretty quick about disabling the smoke detector. And he doesn't complain about the meal!