The onion is a delicious vegetable that doesn't often get the spotlight, perhaps because mature onions are normally harvested in late summer or fall, just when other vegetables are also being harvested and grabbing the attention. But small garden onions harvested in spring, or even wild onions foraged in the wild, are a deliciously sweet early-season food. Even children will enjoy the mild taste of a side dish of sautéed onions, where the natural sweetness is brought out with a slow cook time at low temperatures. When the weather is still cool and wet in the spring, it's a perfect time to offer this fresh vegetable on the dinner table.
Whether serving young onions unadorned as a side dish or using mature onions in complex recipes, several herbs are uniquely well suited to complement the taste of onions. Any of these herbs work equally well either fresh or dried.
Basil is a wonderful flavoring in a simple dish of fresh young onions served as a side dish. Add minced basil to whatever cooking oil you are using, and then add the onions. Just before serving, add some additional chopped basil for an extra punch of flavor.
Basil also works well in dishes such as cabbage and onions and pickled beets and onions. While many cooks prefer using basil fresh, basil dried in a dehydrator works equally well in most recipes.
One advantage of basil is that you can grow it all winter indoors, making it available fresh when the onions are ready in the spring.
Oregano is another herb that pairs very well with onion dishes. The strong flavor of oregano combines with the stronger flavor of onion, softening one another and resulting in a perfect pairing.
The more intense flavor of dried oregano is best used with a light hand, or you risk overpowering the dish. Try oregano in recipes such as caramelized onion and garlic chicken, or in stir-fry beef with onions. Oregano is also a good addition to any recipe for fried liver and onions.
Early spring onions offer a great opportunity to use up your stash of sage left over from the previous season, and the results are delicious!
Sage and onions Crostini is excellent as a fresh appetizer in the early spring when there is not yet much to enjoy from the garden — a classic spring dish. Or enjoy sage in sweet and sour onions or in grilled onions. Like oregano, sage is also a good flavoring for liver and onions recipes.
Tarragon is an intriguing herb that lends different tastes depending on what it paired with. Its natural bittersweet taste is an appealing flavor when used with onions. Tarragon also pairs very well with eggs, so it can often be found in served in egg, tarragon, and onion dishes served for light brunch meals.
Halibut fillets with tarragon cream sauce bring the flavors of onion and tarragon together in a delicious sauce. The anise flavor of tarragon also pairs very well with any tomato sauce that also includes onion.
Thyme is an amazing herb for onion dishes. It packs a big punch for such a tiny leaf, easily holding its own with the stronger flavor of even wild onions like in thyme onion and Roquefort tarts. Or, use thyme to bring depth to a simple onion quiche, or onion-flavored bread. For an interesting variation, try substituting thyme for any onion recipe calling for basil.
Thyme can be used liberally in any dishes calling for onions and eggs — it is a good way to make use of extra thyme if you grow it yourself.