The Obedient Onion
There are some foods in this world you either love or hate. And then there are some foods that fall into both categories. Take onions, for example. Not too long ago I had a conversation with someone about eating healthier. When I suggested sautéing onions with garlic and adding some leafy greens, they turned up their nose and said, “No way! I hate onions, unless it’s onion rings or bloomin’ with honey mustard; then I love ‘em!”
While onions sometimes get a bad rap — being blamed for everything from crying to bad breath to refrigerator odors — I, for one, would not want to live in an onion-free world. Whether grilled, baked, sautéed or raw, these obedient vegetables will turn a good dish into a great dish! Not only do they complement just about any salad, soup, stew, salsa or savory dish, they are plenty versatile and are packed with flavonoids (a type of polyphenol and antioxidant) that may provide important health benefits. Remember, antioxidants are found abundantly in fruits and veggies; they help support the cells of our body by slowing down the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and preventing free radicals. Like most vegetables, onions are low in calories, fat free, cholesterol free and low in sodium.
When you shop for fresh onions, you’re bound to find a few varieties. That’s because onions are classified as either spring/summer or fall/winter. They are considered either “green” or “dry.” Green onions, such as scallions, are harvested while the shoots are young, tender and green. Dry onions can be red (or purple), white or yellow; they are harvested once their shoots have died and they’ve formed their paper-like skin. Even a shallot is a dry onion of the fall/winter variety. The spring/summer varieties of dry onions, such as Vidalia, Maui or Walla Walla, are sweeter and they don’t keep as long as other dry varieties.
Fresh onions aren’t your only option. You’ll find dehydrated, powdered, granulated and mixed-dried blends that all can add depth of flavor to many dishes.
Here are some favorite ways to use onions:
- Chop spring onions, such as scallions, and use them as a garnish for soups, stews, quiche, potatoes, grain dishes and chili. Here’s an idea for Fast Udon Soup with Tofu and Spinach.
- Add chopped spring onions to salsa. Try this Fresh Pineapple Salsa.
- Add green onions or thinly sliced red onions to green salads or grain salads. Try this recipe for Wild Rice Salad with Pecans and Cranberries or in this Barley Salad with Fresh Mint.
- Caramelize yellow or sweet onions; use them as a garnish for meat dishes or grain dishes. Or use them with recipes like this dish for Lentils, Brown Rice and Caramelized Onions or this one for Almond Crusted Salmon with Caramelized Onions.
- All onions combine perfectly with lentils, peas and beans. I love this recipe for Red Lentils with Garlic and Onions.
- Be sure to include onions in your favorite appetizers. Here is a delicious Swiss Cheese Onion Crostini.
- Scramble eggs with minced onions.
- Firing up the grill? Throw some onions on along with whatever else you are cooking. Here’s a Korean-Style Steak with Grilled Vegetables.
- Add onions to roasting pans of chicken, beef or tofu. Here’s a Peruvian-Style Roasted Chicken with Sweet Onions.
- Oven-roast onions and puree them for dips, hummus and spreads. To roast onions, peel and thickly slice a red, white or yellow onion. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400°F until onions are soft and golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.
- Onions are a must for fajitas. Whether you like Vegetable or Chicken, make sure to include lots of onions!
What’s your take on onions? Love ‘em, hate ‘em? Mixed feelings? Got a favorite recipe? Let me know!