But in the cold snap of winter, root vegetables come to the front. Gone are the vibrant, ripe tastes of summer produce; gone are the warm, mellow flavors of fall. The intense, peppery taste of vegetables on sale at farmers' markets reflects the tough-as-nails personality that plants need in order to survive against the cold wind and dim light. Yellow and white onions, overlooked and unappreciated, make up key components of many of our favorite December dishes.

Test kitchen photographer Melissa likes to eat onions raw and wriggling, but the rest of the kitchen staff has a hard time with that dietary choice. We prefer to slow-cook lengthwise cuts of onions, softening them in plenty of fat over low heat. This removes the eye-stinging sulfur compounds that appear as the cut onion oxidizes, and allows the root's natural sugar to come to the surface.

Photos by Melissa Schneider