This week's look at what's new, bountiful or mysterious in the produce aisles:
Belle cipolline (chee-po-LEE-neh; often spelled cipollini) are the grape hyacinth bulbs we've come to know as the onions that look like dainty flying saucers -- and ones that appears with flying-saucer frequency at grocery stores. Although some large, squished-looking American-grown specimens have cropped up at Whole Foods Markets of late, for example, true Italian heirloom varieties are rarely more than two inches across, and come in colors of white, yellow and red.
Small cipolline, also referred to as Borettana or wild onion, feel more delicate and more moist to the touch than a regular onion, and taste creamier when cooked. In Italy, they are pickled and used in salads; in the United States, you'll find the small ones jarred more frequently than the fresh. The fresh ones are available in late summer and fall.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Oniony disks with thin, less-papery skins and, curiously, not too much heft. Avoid cipolline that look as though the bulb has shrunk slightly and pulled away from its skin.
HOW TO STORE: In a cool, dry place with good air circulation, and, like other onions, far away from the potato bin.
HOW TO PREPARE: Rich and sweet, cipolline hold their shape well when they are braised or caramelized, and complement any roast meat in a most appealing manner. They are just the right size for kebabs. Because of their high water content, cipolline may take a bit longer to cook even though they are small. Peeling them without gouging the tender flesh takes a little patience. Cook them over a slow heat, because high heat can make them bitter, and they're too dear to be treated that way.
-- Bonnie S. Benwick