Know Your Onions (and Shallots and Leeks and Ramps)

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Spring onions can be gathered when their bulbs are as slim as pencils or as plump as apples. When skinny, they resemble scallions, and, in some parts of the country, the terms “spring onions” and “scallions” are used interchangeably. But true scallions are actually a distinct species.

With a relatively mild flavor and snappy, juicy texture, spring onions can be used in any recipe in place of regular onions. But they shine raw in salads and relishes, where their gentle flavor and crisp texture are most apparent. The greens, if still fresh and pert, can be sliced and used like scallions.

In her book “The Taste of Country Cooking (Knopf, 2006), the chef Edna Lewis dresses a salad of sliced spring onions or scallions and the first seasonal lettuces with vinegar seasoned with sugar, salt and pepper but no oil, which “kept the greens always crisp and crunchy,” she wrote.

When alliums are lightly dressed, their flavor shines through, with just enough glorious pungency — and absolutely no tears.

Recipes: Creamy Bucatini With Spring Onions and Mint | Roasted Carrots With Shallots, Mozzarella and Spicy Bread Crumbs | Skillet Chicken and Farro With Caramelized Leek

With this rich, creamy pasta dish, sweetened by cooked onions, you want a crisp, incisive white wine to contrast and refresh. I often recommend the realm of dry Italian whites. Why? Because they are so versatile with food, especially a dish like this one. Ligurian vermentino, Soave, Fianos from Campania, Etna Biancos and many more would be delicious. But you don’t have to restrict yourself to Italy. A village-level Chablis would go well, and so would an aligoté from Burgundy. Try a Sancerre or a grüner veltliner from Austria. Portugal makes some dry, non-oaky whites that I would not hesitate to open. Leaner chardonnays or sauvignon blancs from the West Coast would also work well. I personally would not reach for a red, but if you insist, look for something fresh and light. ERIC ASIMOV

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