Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lowly Onions

Coconut, peppermint and hot dogs. Squash, cooked carrots and horseradish. And onions.

There is a list somewhere that contains the things that most little kids don’t like to eat. These were my top players on that list. I still remember staying at the table overtime while my mom waited to see if I really could eat those cooked carrots. Once, I was fooled by being told that fried zucchini was really fried okra, which I loved. I still can’t believe that I bought that one.

Over time, I’ve learned to enjoy most of the foods that I used to hate. But onions stayed on my ambivalent list. Raw, they were a little overwhelming unless chopped very fine and used sparingly. Boiled in soup, they were limp and strangely textured.

While looking at recipes some time back, I started to notice some directions to “caramelize onions.” I worked around with that method, and –My! What a difference! The onions acquired a soft, buttery texture and a sweet, rich flavor along with a soft caramel brown color. I started piling these onions on top of steak and mixing them with fried potatoes and peppers. I also learned that a fried egg perched in a nest of these onions is a nice meal.

Onions are a wonderful little food to enjoy. They are usually pretty inexpensive, keep for awhile and are nutritious. Here is just a sample of what we have learned about onions:

Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables have been associated with a variety of health benefits. Research shows that onions may help guard against many chronic diseases. That's probably because onions contain generous amounts of a flavonoid called quercetin. Other sources are tea and apples, but research shows that absorption of quercetin from onions is twice that from tea and more than three times that from apples. Studies have shown that quercetin protects against cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
In addition, onions contain a variety of other naturally occurring chemicals known as organosulfur compounds that have been linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

These compounds will cause crying when you cut them up, so here’s a tip to avoid that. Take your big cutting board and lay it on the top of your range. Turn the hood exhaust on high and cut away!

I have two favorite recipes where these caramelized onion star. They are simple, lowly recipes that you wouldn’t think could be so nice. But they are. And I am going to tell you how to make them. I use yellow onions.

French Onion Soup

Thinly slice 2 or 3 onions and then cross-cut once or twice. Saute them in a little olive or canola oil at a low to medium heat. Stir frequently. It will take about 10 minutes to caramelize the onions. If they start to get too dark too soon, turn the heat down. Cook them until they are soft and an even light caramel color. I like to turn up the heat at the end of this process and get just a little browning on some of the onions.

Add beef broth until you have the proportion of onions to liquid that you want. (I use “Better than Bullion” soup base paste in hot water.)

Now pour in a little white wine. I also like to squirt in a little lemon juice to add a fresh tang. Salt to taste, if you need that.

The next thing I do is not in the recipe book, but it makes the soup easier to eat. Make a little cornstarch slurry and stir it in to the simmering soup until it thickens slightly.

And the finishing touch--in the individual oven-proof bowl, lay a thick slice of crusty bread on the surface of the soup. Generously sprinkle whatever cheeses you happen to have on hand over the bread and soup. Stick under the broiler until everything is toasty and bubbly. Eat!

Onions and Tofu with Cheese

Thinly slice 2 or 3 onions. Caramelize them in a skillet. Use oil sparingly, but as needed. Meanwhile slice firm tofu into bite-size pieces. Press some of the water out with paper towels or clean cloth. Add the tofu to the onions and see if you can get a little browning on it while you finish up the onions. Add soy sauce with a generous hand and then a little sherry. ( I had Marsala wine, so I used that) Turn off the heat and spread cheese over the top to melt into the onions. You'll be amazed at the tasty vegetarian meal! With a slice of whole grain bread it covers all the food groups.


  1. I'm totally going to try these recipies. They really sound delicious.

  2. The original recipes used measured ingredients, but it is so simple, you don't need to do that. Just put things in the proportion you need and you like the taste of.

  3. lol..your okra story reminded me of the "special broccoli" that was really funky sliced zucchini :)