California dreamin’. Yellow rose of Texas. A hot New York minute. Rocky Mountain high. All short-lived but sweeter for their origin.
Sweet onions are the same. Named for the places they are grown, they show up at different times of the harvest and elongate the pleasures. Vidalia, Walla Walla, and Maui appear from May to September, each in its own time. We snap them up when they become available; keep them in our airy, dark drying closet; and enjoy them within a few days. We love them raw or hot off a quickly warming grill, as the sauté pan and broiler seem to wreck their delicate texture and flavor.
And when the melons and peppers peak at the same time as sweet onions, the selection and combinations are endless. Here is but one idea on offer. We make it fresh and quickly and let it sidle up to grilled meats and vegetables, as well as atop burgers and sandwiches.
Melon, Sweet Onion, Pepper, and Lime Grillside Chutney
Makes 1 pint (halves and doubles well)
1 cup sugar cube-sized pieces of peeled and seeded honeydew melon
1 cup peeled, coarsely chopped sweet onion
1 medium jalapeño pepper, trimmed, seeded, and minced
Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lime
Stingy fistful fresh basil leaves, torn into shreds
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt to taste
Fork-whisk all of the ingredients in a bowl and let the flavors meld while you prepare other foods. Serve cool but not chilled.
Cook’s Tips and Tricks: Mess around with your choices of melons (cantaloupe and Persian), peppers (hot Hungarian wax and ancho), and citrus (orange and lemon). We have even tried juicy stone fruits such as peaches and nectarines. The proportions and balance are up to your tastes. This is not the chutney you want to can in a hot water bath, but you could certainly share the fresh product.
—Picked at the Peak, by Deborah DeBord, Ph.D.
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