The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 22, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Vidalia onion worthy of its own festival

By Cheryle Finley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Vidalia onions, the state vegetable of Georgia, are grown in season during late spring and early summer. First grown near Vidalia, Ga., in the 1930s, these onions are becoming more popular each year.

When choosing these sweet onions, look for bright, shiny skin, a rounded bottom, a slightly flat top and no dark, powdery patches under the skin, which indicate a common mold that will spoil the flesh.

Avoid onions with a thick, woody center in the neck and those that are sprouting in the store, an indication of poor storage or age. If the onions sprout once you get them home the fleshy part will not be good, but the sprouts can be used as a scallion substitute. If you are a fan of this onion, think about attending the Vidalia Onion Festival in Vidalia. If you haven't yet tried these tasty onions, now is the time for a sample.

When my friend showed me the recipe for ice-cream bread, I thought it might be a joke. Two cups softened ice cream and 11/2 cups self-rising flour. Mix just until the flour is moistened. Spoon into a greased and floured 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes for a tasty bread.

I tried it with chocolate ice cream, and it really did make bread. Mine didn't rise as high as the Internet pictures, but I think I needed to let the ice cream soften a bit more, maybe to the melted stage. The end product was OK, but I think it would be better with a specialty ice cream such as chunky monkey or butter pecan. This is a fun cooking project for kids. Just be sure to use regular ice cream and not low-fat for best results.

Fighting allergy and sinus problems has made for less-than-enjoyable food tasting recently. When Marvin Buening called to share his idea of the best bread around, I waited until my taste buds were back in action before looking for the Oroweat whole grains oatnut bread. I have never been a bread snob. Just about any brand will do, and it certainly doesn't have to be a name brand. So I don't usually seek out a certain loaf. I found the Oroweat sitting right there on the shelf with the other breads, giving no hint that it was something special. I should have bought two loaves because one didn't last very long. Tasty plain or toasted, with its crunchy little bits and amazing flavor, this bread is always going to have a place in my breadbox because it's now the one I prefer. Thank you, Marvin, for steering me in the direction of this yummy bread.

Today's first two recipes feature the Vidalia onion. I've shared the first recipe about this time each year for several years because it's our favorite and I want you to enjoy it, too. These onions are delicious on burgers, as a salad topping or just by themselves. Even those not too fond of onions just might end up loving this dish. Thank you to That Joplin Woman for sharing this oldie but goodie.

The second recipe, from about.com, is a one-dish wonder that could easily be adapted to your slow cooker by cooking 5 to 6 hours on high or 8 to 9 on low. My preference is the red potato option, but either is a good choice.

For dessert enjoy the gooey butter cake, another one of my family's favorites. I usually don't include the slivered almonds, but the almond flavoring is just right. It says it serves 20, but I cut the pieces bigger and it serves 9 to 12. Store this cake covered at room temperature for up to four days or in the refrigerator for up to a week, if it lasts that long. Have a wonderful week and happy eating!

 

Vidalia onions

Slice 5 pounds onions very thin and place in a 2-quart bowl. Marinate overnight in 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups vinegar. Drain. Mix with 1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise and celery salt to taste.

 

Chicken and onion casserole

3 to 4 boneless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 to 4 large red or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced

3 to 4 medium Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Salt, pepper and paprika to taste

Wash chicken and pat dry. Brown in oil; drain on paper towel. In greased 2-quart casserole pan, layer in order the potatoes, onions and soup, spreading the soup evenly over top. Place chicken on top of soup; sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Cover tightly. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serves 3 to 4.

 

Gooey almond butter cake

Crust:

1 plain yellow cake mix

8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg

1/2 cup slivered almonds

Filling:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature

2 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

8 tablespoons butter, melted

3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Place crust ingredients in large bowl. Blend on low for 2 minutes. With fingertips, pat batter evenly over the bottom of ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Set aside. Place cream cheese in same mixing bowl (no need to clean beaters); blend on low until fluffy. Add eggs, extract and melted butter; beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add confectioners' sugar. Beat on medium speed until sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Pour filling onto the crust and spread so filling covers entire surface and reaches edge of pan. Bake at 350 degrees until well browned but center still jiggles when you shake the pan, 45 to 47 minutes. Cool 30 minutes on wire rack. Serves 20.



Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.