You can serve these Venetian sweet-and-sour pearl onions hot or at room temperature. Note the classic Levantine addition of pine nuts and raisins.
Trim the root ends of the onions carefully, leaving the bottom of each bulb intact. Cut a cross in each root end to prevent the onion from telescoping during cooking. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add the onions and boil until cooked but still firm, 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon their size. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, slip off the skins.
Warm the butter or olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the sugar, vinegar, raisins, and pine nuts. Stir well, cover tightly, and simmer until the onions are completely tender, about 15 minutes longer. Season with salt and transfer to a serving dish.
© 2000 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.