A Savory Mardi Gras Favorite

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - February 14, 2007
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Mardi Gras is being celebrated now at Dixie Grill, both on Ward Avenue and in Aiea, but the actual “Fat Tuesday” doesn’t come until next week, Feb. 20, the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, when Catholics the world over start their more austere preparation for Easter.

But for most of the world, it means the major hurrah, the final day of Carnival, a celebration of fun and frolic that has become synonymous with Rio, Venice and, of course, New Orleans.

The French Quarter in that Louisiana city is alive with activity now, with Bourbon Street at the center of the festivities. Tourists flock to the streets to enjoy the parades and to enjoy the signature dishes that have made Creole and Cajun cooking popular around the world.

Folks here in the Islands don’t need to travel to New Orleans to sample this cuisine thanks to Ed Wary’s popular restaurants. We dedicate this week’s column not only to Dixie Grill, but also to everyone in New Orleans on the road to recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Remember, contributions are still welcome to the American Red Cross and other organizations to help hurricane victims still suffering economic setbacks as they rebuild their area.

Cultivated for more than 5,000 years, the onion was held in high regard by the Egyptians who used it to pay tribute to their gods and to pay the slaves who built the pyramids. Onions were also found in tombs, placed there for use in the afterworld; remains of onions were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

In 1493 Christopher Columbus introduced onions to the New World, and they are now cultivated in many countries, including China, India, Russia, Turkey and the United States.

Variety and climate determine how pungent or mild the onion will taste. Spanish onions are among the mildest with white onions being mild and sweet, and red onions being the sweetest.

Some people have difficulty with the digestion of raw onions, and they tend to stay on the breath, which can be remedied by chewing on the raw parsley that is frequently used as garnish at restaurants.

When purchasing, look for onions that are dry, smooth and have a crisp outer skin. Avoid onions that are starting to sprout or have mold.

Onions contain vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and vitamin B6.


Recipe compliments of Dixie Grill Bar-b-que & Crab Shack

* 3 onions, sliced very thin
* 1/4 cup butter (or could substitute extra virgin olive oil)
* 5 cups beef broth (may use vegetable broth)
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
* 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 slice Swiss cheese
* 1 slice mozzarella cheese
* 1/2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 piece crustini - toast bread sliced to 1/2-inch thick until golden brown and crusty

Sauté onions in melted butter in a large soup pot for 20 to 30 minutes, on low heat, making sure onions are nicely browned. Stir in the flour. Then slowly add the beef broth, salt and garlic powder. Bring to a boil and then bring down to a simmer for 1 hour. Add the 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

To make a bowl of soup: Place into your favorite oven-safe bowl. Place one piece of crustini on top. Place a slice of mozzarella and Swiss overlapping on the top and slightly over the edge. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in 400 degree oven until golden. Serve immediately!

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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