- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

For many cooks Vidalia onion time is New Year’s and spring rolled into one.

The Vidalia came into season the middle of this month, and the harvest continues through mid-June with onions usually available through Labor Day.

The Vidalia is a favorite: sweet, mild and crisp. The stories are true: People are known to bite into Vidalias, eating them out of hand like fruit — and Vidalias won’t make you shed a tear.

Even when Vidalias reach the kitchen, cooks don’t need to spend much prep time dressing them up. Often, the simpler the better. You can layer thin rings of onion on salads. You can grill whole onions, or dip rings in batter and fry them.

Just a few more steps, a few more ingredients, however, and an onion-based dish can easily get quite special.

Here’s a recipe worked out by executive chef Brian Stapleton of the Carolina Inn, in Chapel Hill, N.C., for a salad that won’t take much work but will make an impression on diners who are lucky enough to share it. It’s simply a treat.

Vidalia onion, crab and tomato salad

½ cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch salt

Pinch pepper

1 medium Vidalia onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium vine-ripe red tomato, diced

1 medium vine-ripe yellow tomato, diced

12 ounces fresh blue lump crabmeat, picked over to remove shell fragments

1/4 cup virgin olive oil

4 scallions, thinly sliced

4 basil leaves, julienned

In a large bowl combine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add Vidalia onion and cucumber slices to vinegar mixture, toss to coat. Marinate for 1 to 2 hours. Add tomatoes, crabmeat, olive oil, scallions and basil. Toss gently and adjust seasoning.

To serve, divide salad among 4 chilled plates. Makes 4 servings.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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