Early summer always includes a visit to the library to sign my son up for summer reading. He comes home with an armful of I Spy books, while my haul usually consists mostly of cookbooks. This year, my armload of cookbooks wasn’t necessary with the growing selection of ebooks through the library website.
I’m midway through Taste of Persia, by Naomi Duguid and am loving her fascinating combination of travelogue, stories and food culture. Read it! It is the perfect long summer read.
With a bagful of Vidalia onions in my pantry, I just had to try my own version of her Onion Salad with barberries, sumac and mint leaves. Except I didn’t have barberries or sumac. I do have blueberries as my blueberry harvest is just beginning!
I made some quick substitutions and ended up with a refreshing salad that complements the foods of summer nicely. Serve it as a side dish or condiment to grilled kebabs, pork bbq, burgers or hot dogs.
The process is very simple, just soak thinly sliced Vidalia onions in salted water for 30 minutes (about a teaspoon of salt per 1 cup of sliced onions, then add cold water to cover). Drain and dry the onions, then combine them with the summer veggies of your choice. I used blueberries and tossed in my first yellow tomatoes of the summer.
I made my own ground sumac substitution by taking some dried blueberries and grinding them in my spice grinder with a pinch of red pepper flakes and some lemon zest. This mixture got sprinkled over the salad along with a few freshly picked mint leaves, then seasoned with a pinch of salt before serving.
The faux sumac combination lends a tart, slightly floral flavor to the onions that will wake up your taste buds!
This salad is meant to be served with meaty dishes or hearty soups and stews. If you choose to forego the meat you’ll want to add some fat. A little feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice will do nicely.
Ground sumac can be ordered online, or found at some natural food stores and international markets and imparts a tangy, sour flavor to dishes.
Vidalia onions are grown in a limited state designated region around Vidalia, Georgia. They are usually milder and sweeter than their white and yellow counterparts and are only available in late spring and early summer. This year’s crop is a little spicier due to drought conditions, so I doubled the cold saltwater soak time referenced in Taste of Persia.
FYI the best way to store onions is in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. Wrap each unpeeled onion in parchment, newspaper or brown paper bag and space them out to give them air. The higher sugar content in Vidalia onions can lead to shorter shelf life at room temperature.