Winter time is when the I’itoi onions shine in the Southwest garden. They are a bunching onion, much like a shallot, and grow best here in the cooler winter months. If you don’t grow these desert-adapted onions, you could substitute shallots if you need to.

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Southwest Winters Are to Savor

Ah, winter in the Southwest. Those of us who live in this winter paradise know that now is the time for long lost friends and distant relatives and friends show up for a visit – often on short notice. How to feed these surprise guests? I run out to the garden to see what’s growing. At this time of year, the I’itoi onions are doing well indeed, so I use them!

I can whip up a batch of I’itoi Onion Scones, like I posted back in October (here). But sometimes I need a dip for the vegetable plate. Of course I want to feature something in season, not a jar of salsa anyone can buy in any store.

Tip - For best flavor with any dip
make them 24 to 48 hours ahead of time so the flavors develop.  
Bring dips to room temperature to serve. 
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Fresh I’itoi Onion-Goat Cheese Dip

4-8 I’itoi onion bulbs and tops
8 oz fresh mild goat cheese or cream cheese, warmed to room temperature – for a more dip-able dip, you can use sour cream or even Greek yogurt.
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
fresh ground pepper to taste
2-3 teaspoons olive oil

There are two ways to do this – by hand or with a food processor.
If by hand, both the onions and rosemary will need to be finely minced.

In a food processor
Place the onions, cheese, rosemary, and some ground pepper in a small food processor. Drizzle in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and blend the mixture in pulses, scraping the sides as necessary. Add tiny amounts of oil at a time to achieve a dip-able or spreadable consistency. Refrigerate several hours before adjusting the seasoning.

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If you don’t have a food processor, be sure you dice your onions finely.

Roasted I’itoi Onion-Goat Cheese Dip

Roasting the I’itoi onions caramelizes them. They become sweeter and milder flavored. Good enough to eat with a spoon. You make this ahead of time. Since no-one is watching, go ahead and lick your fingers.

20 raw I’itoi onion bulbs
olive oil for baking

8 oz fresh mild goat cheese or cream cheese, warmed to room temperature
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
fresh ground pepper to taste
2-3 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450F.

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Honey – thanks for helping, but only cut off the tip!
Prepare

Ready the I’itoi onions by cutting off about ¼ inch of the root end. Also cut off the tops. Save the green tops for salads. Rub off the outer layer of skin but don’t peel completely. Toss the onions in olive oil in a heatproof dish. Spread them in a single layer for roasting. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir once or twice while roasting. Let cool.
Pick up each onion at one long end, and squish. The softened roasted onion should shoot out the other end.

To assemble the dip/spread, follow the first recipe.

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More about growing your own great herbs in Jacqueline Soule’s book: Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute may get a few pennies.

© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. You can use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit, plus you must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.

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