Sweet Vidalia onions are stuffed with brown rice, lentils, and an aromatic blend of spices. Vegan, low-fat, and gluten-free.
I bought some Vidalia onions a couple of weeks ago, figuring I’d stuff them once the time was right. Last night the weather finally cooled off enough that having the oven on for an hour and a half didn’t seem like such a hot ordeal.
Since Vidalias are sweet, I decided on a sweetish filling to complement them. It’s adapted from one of my favorite recipes from Laurel’s Kitchen, the first vegetarian cookbook I ever bought, back in 1982 (yes, I am old). It’s a lentil pilaf with plenty of sweetness; cinnamon, cloves, and raisins echo the sweetness of the Vidalias but also lend a slightly-spicy warmth.
If you don’t have the time or energy to stuff the Vidalias, there’a a casserole option included at the end of the recipe. Either way, it’s true comfort food on an almost-Autumn night.
Vidalia Onions Stuffed with Rice-Lentil Pilaf
- 4 large Vidalia onions
- olive oil spray optional
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes–or to taste
- 1/2 cup brown lentils rinsed and picked over
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds optional
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (you’ll be glad you did this when it’s clean-up time).
Peel the onions and trim the bottoms so that they stand upright. Cut about 1/2 inch off the tops and set the trimmed parts aside. Put the onions on the baking sheet and give them a very quick spray of olive oil (this helps keep them from burning but isn’t essential). Sprinkle with a little salt (if using) and grind a little black pepper over them.
Bake them until tender and slightly caramelized around the edges, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Leave the oven on, reducing the heat to 350 F.
While the onions are baking, prepare the pilaf. Chop whatever is usable of the onion tops into small pieces. Heat a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting top. Add the onions and sauté until tender. Add the rice and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for one minute more.
Add the 2 1/2, spices, lentils, and salt and stir to combine well. Cover, turn the heat to low (or set rice cooker to cook), and cook for 30 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
When the onions are cool enough to handle, remove their centers by pushing up from the bottom; be sure to leave a shell at least 2 or 3 layers thick. Cut off a bit of the onion center and return it to the onion to seal the bottom. Place the onions in a large, covered baking dish that has been lightly oiled or lined with parchment.
Chop the onion centers and add them, the raisins, and the pine nuts to the rice mixture. Check the rice–it should still have some water in it. If if doesn’t, add 1/4 cup water. Spoon the rice mixture into the onions, pressing to pack it in and mounding it slightly over the top. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of water over the top of each onion, and put 2 tablespoons of water into the bottom of the baking dish. Cover tightly, and put in the oven. (If you have any rice mixture left over, put it in another covered baking dish and bake it along with the onions.)
Check after 20 minutes to see if the rice is tender and not too dry; if it isn’t completely cooked, return it to the oven for 5-10 minutes, adding a little hot water if it is too dry.
If you’d like to make the pilaf alone, skip steps 1-3, sauté 1/2 cup of chopped onions at the beginning of step 4, and follow the basic directions, putting it into an oiled casserole dish for baking.
Nutritional data includes pine nuts.