This warm salad uses Australian Cipollini Onions, balsamic and tender BBQ Squid.
A few weeks ago I found a 500 gm pack of Cipollini onions in a grocery store. I was excited to see Cipollini onions, well no actually I was shocked to see Cipollini onions. That’s because I have only ever seen them in jars imported from Italy, and most certainly I have never seen them for sale in their glorious raw state.
So what are they?
They are a small flat onion with annoying papery skin that is sometimes hard to peel. Do not let this put you off because they are sweet and are perfect for roasting, or pickling or even in salads. They are bulbing onions that are harvested about 100 days after planting and are a yellow to brown onion but also come in a red variety too. If you are familiar with Italian food you will probably have eaten them in Italy fresh or roasted or out of a jar. They are a major crop in the North of Italy and have been growing there for hundreds of years. Well, guess what Italians, they are now growing in Australia.
I for one am very excited by this development. Ross and Colleen Arnott from Boneo on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula harvested the first small crop this year. I am not sure how well new crops have done, so look out for them. Ross is the biggest shallots (known as French eshallots) producer in Australia and has nine-hectares in crop with around 6 varieties . He has an eye for the right crop it seems as he also produces white radish (daikon) and supplies up to 60% of Melbourne’s Diakon needs. So when Ross saw Cipollini onions at an expo in the US, he brought some back with him to give them a go. He planted a very small area and his first attempt has been very successful with interest from restaurants and the public at his regular market stalls. The next crop is being sown now, and will be ready for March. He hopes he will have more consistent sizes and a flatter shape and is quite surprised at his success. He seems a sensibly cautious man though and is still taking baby steps for the next planting. I can’t wait for more. They have also done well in America with more coming onto the market, increasing their popularity.
A great suggestion is to dip the babies into very hot water for a couple of seconds or drop them into boiling water to help remove the papery skins. I didn’t quite leave them in long enough. You might be able to see this from the picture above because they look leathery once roasted. I just peeled off the leathery bits and rolled them in the delicious balsamic glaze.
I got mine at The Fishmarket, Sydney but have also seen them in Brisbane at Charlies Fruit market stores
If you can’t find Cipollini onions use tiny pickling onions or quartered Spanish Onions .
- 1 kg squid cleaned and sliced
- 1 teaspoon thyme chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 40 ml olive oil (2 Tablespoons)
- 6 baby cucumbers cut in half ( or 1 small Lebanese Cucumber)
- ½ cup black olives
- 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes - I used sweet orange ones
- ¼ cup sliced parsley
- 500 gm cipollini onions ( or quartered Spanish onions)
- 80 ml Balsamic vinegar aged (4 Tablespoons)
- 80 ml olive oil (4 Tablespoons)
- 40 ml honey (2 Tablespoons)
- 4 sprigs thyme picked chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 50 ml lemon juice (Juice of 1 lemon)
- 20 ml very good balsamic (1 Tablespoon) ( sweet)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard heaped
- 60 ml olive oil (3 Tablespoons)
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 clove of garlic ½'d
- Salt and pepper
- Clean and finely slice the Squid ( you can score it if you like) and put it in a bowl with lemon zest, olive oil and chopped thyme. Put into the refrigerator till needed
- Set the oven 180C/350F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the balsamic, honey oil and thyme into a bowl. Peel the onions by first dropping into boiling water for 1 minute and draining, to remove the fine skin, peel. Toss the onions in the Balsamic mix, then onto the baking tray. Cover with foil and roast for about 25 minutes before discarding the foil and roasting a further 20 minutes or till caramelized and soft. Set aside . You can make these the day before if you like.
- Put the olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic ( honey if using) , whole thyme and garlic and salt and pepper into a jar and shake till combined
- Heat the BBQ or grill plate while you put the salad together.
- Put the cucumbers, olives, parsley, tomatoes and onions into a bowl. Then toss the squid onto the grill adding the thick tentacles first. Let them cook for a 2 minutes before adding the remainder of the squid and cook till opaque, approximately 3 minutes. Let the squid rest for a couple of minutes or it will be tough.
- Add the squid to the salad and toss with ½ the dressing. Taste and add more if you like.