Roasted Potatoes with Sweet and Sour Cipollini Onions

February 22, 2008


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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  



There are times when I glance around my chaotic home office, and I despair a little.  Then my eyes glaze over and I fall into a reverie about the good ol’ days, when I used to be organized: desktop in order, with clearly demarcated “to do” and “done” piles.  Mail returned with great alacrity, and an empty “inbox” each evening.  Shoes and boots lined up like bottles at a county fair, erect and waiting for the ball that will topple them. Laundry folded, laid neatly in drawers (never left to languish untouched on the top of the dresser for days).

Ah, yes, it’s a lovely dream. In more recent times, what with papers to mark, driveways to shovel, cooking classes to teach, orders to bake, dogs to walk, blogs to write–well, I admit that I’ve become a little slack on the home front.  But seriously, do you really need more than four square inches of desk space to pay your bills online? Do you really need bookshelves to hold all your books, when the packing boxes they were moved in will do a perfectly acceptable job? Do floors really need to be washed all that often (speaking of, if your floors aren’t up to snuff, just get a puppy.  Presto! It’s like one of those zoomba roboty things that catches every spill–leaving floors spic and span–with no effort on your part!). 

Well, weird things are starting to happen now that I’ve cut chocolate out of my life.  Suddenly, my disorderly surroundings began to feel intolerable (I mean, it’s been this way pretty much since the day we moved in here), and I went on a tidying rampage: clear the mess on the desk! Fold that laundry! Line up those shoes! Tote that barge, lift that bale. . !  And then, I felt like cooking.  Cooking onions.


I had always considered onions to be a mere accessory to something else: an adjunt to the roasted garlic in a spelt pizza, a great starter ingredient for soups, or a bedrock for that slab of tempeh in a Tempeh Ruben. And yet, ever since the CFO came to visit a few weeks ago, onions have been tumbling around in the back of my mind. During her visit, she convinced me to buy a copy of Cooking Light magazine, something I’d never done before despite being an avowed magazine junkie (uh oh, I detect a pattern here. . . can the Week of Magazine Asceticism be far behind?). 

Guilty of judging a magazine by its cover, I’d always assumed the recipes within would be rife with “diet” or “lite” ingredients (usually chemically-enhanced or highly processed) as a way of creating these so-called lighter versions of strandard fare (geez, didn’t I notice it was called Cooking Light and not Cooking Lite?).  Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

As soon as I flipped open the current issue, a stunning photo of cipollinis beckoned. Now, I’d never even heard of cipollini onions before that moment but, like a new word you finally look up in the dictionary that subsequently pops up everywhere thereafter, these onions had entered my consciousness and I began to notice their presence in familiar places–old cookbooks, food tv shows, other blogs. Within a week, I’d seen them mentioned three or four times.  

As much as I love onions, I’d never based an entire dish on them before.  (I’d only heard of such a travesty once, during my final PhD year. At the time, my friend Ginny’s husband was being called upon to chip in  at home for the first time in their 10-year marriage, as Ginny was overwhelmed with work and studies and often late for dinner.  One evening, after a long night’s studying at the library, Ginny returned home to find that her hubby had attempted to cook dinner on his own.  As she gravitated toward the heavenly scent of sauteed onions, her husband beamed with pride as he directed her to a huge frypan on the stove, lifted the cover, and revealed–a pan of fried onions!  That’s right: he could think of nothing to combine with them, nothing else to add, but he did know how to fry. Last I heard, they were getting a divorce.)



 This recipe combines buttery-soft onions with plump raisins and toasted pine nuts in an allluring, glossy glaze.  Once the dish was complete, it did look very much like the photo in the magazine.  It also tasted great, with the sweet-tart appeal of a good chutney. It was then I realized, much like Ginny’s husband, “what am I going to do with all these onions?”  As a side dish to some hunk of meat, they might seem sufficient on their own, but that wasn’t happening in my house. Don’t get me wrong–it was very, very good; just not good enough to stand on its own. cipollineraw.jpg So I decided to ladle the mixture over herb-roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and–voila–a lovely, light dinner was born.  

And, ironically, you really do need to be organized to make this dish.  Just to peel the onions, you must blanch, cool, squeeze, and pull off the skins.  This alone took me 30 minutes, before I even began to prepare the rest of the dish. 

Yes, cipollinis are lovely.  But heck, with my schedule, next time I’ll just use chunks of the good ol’ regular kind.

Because the potatoes provide the true substance of this dish, I’m submitting this as my entry for “The Potato–A Blog Event”  by Eating Leeds.

Roasted Potatoes with Sweet and Sour Cipolllini Onions

(from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2008 )


This recipe offers a gussied-up version of the archetypal combination, roast potatoes and onions. We ate this as a main course, but if you prefer, you can serve these separately, as side dishes.

For the potatoes:

2 lb. (about 1 kg.) Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into quarters

2-4 Tbsp. (30-60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil

generous sprinklings of oregano, rosemary, parsley and thyme

salt to taste

For the onions:

1/4 cup (60 ml.) raisins

1/2 cup (125 ml.) hot water

2 pounds (about 1 kg.) cipollini onions

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) butter (I used olive oil)

3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) water

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) sugar (I used agave nectar)

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) sea salt

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.)  freshly ground pepper

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) pine nuts

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).  Grease a large roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with olive oil.  Place in a single layer in the pan and sprinkle with the herbs.  Roast in preheated oven until done and a little crispy on the outside, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the onions:

Place raisins in a bowl and cover with the 1/2 cup hot water. Let stand 30 minutes or until plump.  Drain.

Trim top and root end of onions. Cook onions in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain, cool and peel. (The skins were supposed to slip off easily, but they were not not exactly cooperative).

Melt butter (or olive oil) in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to pan, stirring well to coat. Stir in 3 Tbsp. water [I found I had to add more later on to keep the mixture from scorching], red wine vinegar, sugar (agave), salt, and black pepper. Cover, reduce heat and cook 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. [I found I needed more time than this before they began to really caramelize.]

Add raisins and pine nuts to pan. Inrease heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes or until lightly browned and liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. 

Divide potatoes into 4 servings, and ladle the cipollini mixture on top of each. 


10 Responses to “Roasted Potatoes with Sweet and Sour Cipollini Onions”

  1. Courtney Says:

    I recently found your blog and I am enjoying reading all of your great posts! Thanks for each and every one of them!

    I actually really like Cooking Light…most of the recipes are easily adaptable to vegan.


  2. Astra Libris Says:

    I just discovered your blog through the No Croutons Required event, and I’m so glad I did! Your posts are wonderfully witty and beautifully written…

    These onions sound absolutely fabulous… Yum…

    P.S. Your puppies are adorable!! I love their comments in your posts!

  3. Johanna Says:

    Oh I so understand your attitude to washing floors and order in the house – often we need to clear a space to eat dinner on our table! But life is too short to tidy up when you can be preparing excellent comfort food of roast potatoes and fried onions 🙂 That dish sounds so simple but looks so good.

    By the way, I have just done a meme and have incorporated a 5 things about memory after being inspired by your meme a few posts ago!

  4. Ricki Says:

    Thanks so much for your comment, and for visiting! I think I’m going to be checking out Cooking Light a lot more often now that I’ve seen the “Light.” I did notice that lots of the recipes were vegetarian/vegan. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Astra Libris,
    Thanks so much for your kind words–they are much appreciated (and The Girls say “thanks,” too!). I did enjoy the onions, but certainly not peeling them 😉 .

    So glad you’re with me on the floor thing! And of course, you are absolutely right about spending one’s time doing more important things, like cooking and eating. Looking forward to checking out your own meme!

  5. Karen Says:

    Hi Ricki!
    This and the pudding are on my list to make very soon. I’m so glad that you discovered Cooking Light. You should check out the Cooking Light discussion boards online (, there are a lot of great folks out there. I think they would enjoy hearing from you!

    Thanks for participating in the meme. It was fun to learn more about you.

    Best to the puppies,

  6. VeggieGirl Says:

    oooh, cipolloni onions are my FAVORITE onion-variety – delicious!!

  7. LisaRene Says:

    Cipollini onions are so tasty, but you are correct that they can be time consuming to peel. I agree that I wouldn’t want a plate of onions as a whole meal but I do enjoy them as a side, they have so much flavor that I find them very satisfying.

    Love that you share your pudding with the girls!

  8. Tania Says:

    In just reading through the list of ingredients I could almost taste the tangy sweet-and-sourness of this dish. Onions and potatoes suddenly sound very interesting, indeed!

    Just wondering how your WOCA is going … Wishing you much strength, Ricki!

  9. Ricki Says:

    So glad you like the sound of them–and thanks again for the tag. I’ve taken a look at the Cooking Light board and it does seem to be a great resource, so thanks for that, too! And best regards from The Girls, of course 🙂


    I don’t know if I’d put them at the very top of my onion list, but close. Glad you like them!

    I definitely enjoyed the onions more with the potato base than I did on their own. And given your own canine housemates, I see why you’d want The Girls to share! (they appreciate the sentiment).

    Glad to improve the reputations of both onion and potatoes! And thank you for your good wishes re: WOCA. As I mentioned on today’s post (Dreams of Chocolate, Feb 23rd), it’s been up and down, with a downswing today. . . but not giving up!

  10. Alex Says:

    This looks lovely. We are always roasting onions when we roast potatoes but never doing anything more clever with them … might be time for a change!

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