My father attended a Portuguese Catholic Elementary school when he was a boy after he and his family moved to Fall River, Massachusetts from St. Michael, Azores in Portugal. He recalled for me that every day he and his siblings (he had 8) would return home for lunch and Cebolada was almost always on the menu. My Vavó would serve it along with chouriço and a fresh Portuguese pop-sec (bread roll).
Although my mother’s family came from a totally opposite side St. Michael, she told me that her mother would make this quite often as well… She said that her favorite time of year to make Cebolada was in the summer when she had lots of fresh tomatoes coming out of the garden. My mother said she remembers her mother either eating Cebolada as is or over a left over piece of fried fish.
Cebolada is a quintessential Portuguese staple. All the flavors that you will find in almost any Portuguese dish is concentrated right here in this recipe. Many, like my grandmother will eat Cebolada just as is and it’s a great vegetarian dish just so. I personally love Cebolada over some velvety soft, boiled yams and make it each and every year as a side on my Thanksgiving table. A cousin of mine says that her mother always pairs Cebolada with crabs. But, more often than not, Cebolada is used to stretch food, either left overs or if only a little protein is had. And of course I can’t be certain, but my guess is that this was the original intention of the dish.
While the onions are cooking… prep your remaining ingredients…
Recipe for Cebolada:
3 large onions, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 heaping Tbs. mild wet ground red pepper
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. Portuguese Allspice
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste as needed
Saute onions (add salt to onions) in olive oil over medium heat until softened and pliable. Add in garlic, saute for another minute. Add in Allspice and pepper. Add in tomatoes. Turn down heat to medium/low. Continue to saute, stirring every few minutes until onions appear to be breaking down and tomatoes are soft. Taste for salt, add if needed. Serve.
My favorite way to eat: