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Merge Red Onions and Basil into a Winning Summer Side Dish

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My basil plant has been in overdrive this year, making for more pesto than I have room for in my freezer. That’s why I loved the looks of this recipe for Roast Red Onions with Basil that Nigella Lawson includes in her new “Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes” (Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35). (If you’re looking for a book with some great side dishes in it, check out Lawson’s book for ideas such as Spinach Baked with Ricotta and Nutmeg, Garlic Mushrooms with Chili and Lemon, Broccolini with Parmesan and Lemon, and Sicilian Cauliflower Salad with saffron, oil-cured olives and pine nuts.)

red onion“This is one of those recipes that, while not quick to cook, is the work of easy minutes to make,” Lawson writes. “Also, because it’s best warm rather than hot, you can cook this before getting on with anything else, thus freeing up the oven later, should you need it.

“I know that having to peel more than 2 pounds of onions doesn’t seem like light work, but if you quarter them first, the peel almost falls off. And I never worry about a bit of it here and there in the pan, anyway. I prefer to use smallish red onions, but if you can only find large ones, then cut them into eighths rather than quarters.”

Lawson suggests serving this as part of a buffet or alongside either roast lamb or grilled halloumi. You could also make it the main course by sprinkling a little cheese, such as ricotta, Gorgonzola or Tallegio, on top before adding the basil.

Roast Red Onions with Basil

2 1/2 pounds red onions, preferably small, quartered then peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon best-quality balsamic vinegar, or to taste
Large bunch of fresh basil (approximately 4 cups packed)

Basil is the focus of this year's Herb Market, June 2 at the Pearl Brewery.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Tip the quartered onions into a roasting pan, pour the olive oil over them, then scatter with fennel seeds, tossing the onions in the pan to coast hem thoroughly, then put the pan in the oven for 1 hour, by which time the onions should be soft and cooked through.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the salt and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the onions, then toss them gently and leave (for up to 1 hour) to come to room temperature, though you can eat this hot if you prefer.

On serving, add the basil leavings, torn from their stems, and toss again, seasoning to taste. There is a lot of basil, but think of it as a salad leaf here, not mere decoration.

Makes 6-8 side dish servings.

From “Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes” by Nigella Lawson

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