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As a member of the onion family, shallots are tender in texture and mild in flavor. Thought to have originated from an ancient Palestinian city, shallots are now widely used in French cuisine. Shallots resemble garlic bulbs more than onions because each head is made up of several cloves and is covered with a thin, paper-like skin.

The color of a shallot’s skin can range from pale brown or gray to a soft rose. Once exposed, the ivory flesh is usually marked by a pale green or purple color.

Shallots should be selected using the same method as you would for onions. Choose firm, heavy shallots with dry, papery skins and avoid any signs of moisture, green shoots or dark spots.

Humidity breeds spoilage so store whole shallots in a cool dry place with good air circulation. Shallots will hold for one month, depending on the condition when purchased. Once cut, tightly wrap any unused shallots in plastic. Then refrigerate and use within four days.

In the Roche Bros. produce department, also look for organic shallots, which are free of artificial or synthetic fertilizers and full of unforgettable, great tasting flavor.

Shallots are a great addition sauces, stews, soups and salads. Mince shallots and add them to traditional French vinaigrette, an ideal dressing for simple spring salads with fresh greens. Enhance the flavor of sautéed wild mushrooms by added some minced shallots to the pan first, and finish this elegant side dish off with a sprinkling of fresh herbs!