your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.”
– from “Ode to the Onion” by Pablo Neruda, translated by Stephen Mitchell
One of the reasons I love Pablo Neruda is because he writes so beautifully about the most common items. His ode to onions is one of his best, praising the simple vegetable that is both accessible to the poor and essential to the finest meals.
Onions might be the ingredient I use most often in my cooking. They are humble, indispensable and delicious. And I can’t think of a worthier subject for a poem.
“Star of the poor,
paper, you rise from the ground
eternal, whole, pure
like an astral seed,
and when the kitchen knife
cuts you, there arises
the only tear
Balsamic Onions and Blue Cheese Salad
(from Barefoot Contessa Parties)
3 small red onions
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
1 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp minced shallots (2 large)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
3/4 to 1 pound crumbly blue cheese
2 heads red-leaf lettuce, washed, spun dry, and torn
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the onions in half and slice 1/4 inch thick. Place on a baking sheet and toss with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions are tender. Remove from the oven, toss with 2 more tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and let cool to room temperature.
To make the dressing, whisk the shallots, mustard, red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a small bowl. While whisking, add 3/4 cup olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Mash 1/4 pound blue cheese with a fork and add it to the dressing.
To assemble, toss enough lettuce for 6 people with dressing to taste. Place the lettuce on 6 plates and arrange the onions on top. Coarsely crumble the rest of the blue cheese on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.