Dear Timaree: “A friend of mine gave be a bag of onions she bought at a roadside stand, do you have any ideas?”
Timaree: Absolutely! Onions are often taken for granted, and certainly don’t get the respect they deserve. Those onions were one of the most healthful gifts that your friend could have given you! While they might have been the very first vegetable consumed in recorded history, present day scientists are still adding to the list of phenomenal health benefits they offer! I have two fantastic recipes to share that are not only incredibly easy, but are so delicious that you will look forward to every bite of your daily onion! Daily onion? Yes, it just might keep the doctor away!
Purchase onions that are firm and relatively clean with dry outer skins, and no soft spots, evidence of mold or sprouting. Store them in a dark, well ventilated area away from heat and potatoes, or else they will spoil quicker since they can absorb the potatoes’ moisture and ethylene gas.
Onions can be eaten raw or cooked, but be sure to only remove the papery “skin” and not “over peel” them, as the highest concentration of phytonutrients are found in the outermost layers of the bulb. To maximize their health benefits, slice onions (with a sharp knife, while standing to keep your face as far away as possible and by an open window) and then let them rest for 5 minutes before cooking. While some onions can bring us to tears, it is good to know that the more potent the onion, the better it is for you!!! To enhance their natural sweetness, add onions to a few tablespoons of veggie broth just beginning to steam over medium heat, cover for 3 minutes, then add a few more tablespoons of broth and continue to cook, uncovered, for 4 more minutes.
The disease-preventing power of onions is nothing short of miraculous! When onions are cut or crushed, compounds (including allicin) are formed which are anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, can help reduce cholesterol production in the liver, decrease blood vessel stiffness and blood clot formation, increase bone density as well as lower blood glucose levels. Onions are low in calories (64 kcals per cup), but provide fiber, important minerals, including chromium, potassium and manganese, several B vitamins (folate, thiamin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid) and vitamin C. Consume half of a medium onion each day, either in salads, soups, stir-fries, salsas, on pizza and sandwiches, in grain and bean dishes and more! These recipes will make getting your daily onion a cinch!
The Nutrition Professor’s “Cook Smart” Caramelized Onions (Super Easy!):
4-5 red onions (cut with slicer blade on food processor if you have one)
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Toss onions with vinegar, salt and pepper. Arrange on 2 baking sheets lined with foil and rubbed with a small amount of canola oil on a paper towel. Roast onions at 350F until golden brown and sweet, about 30 minutes, stirring every 7-10 minutes. Enjoy on sandwiches, salads, grain and bean dishes, pizza, wraps and more! Let your imagination lead the way! They even freeze perfectly!
Perfectly Pickled Red Onions:
2 cup of cider vinegar
2 cup of water, room temperature or cold
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 medium red onions, thinly sliced (food processor works well)
Bring a teakettle or large pot full of water to a boil. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, bay leaves in a medium sized bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Add the peppercorns in an empty “tea bag” or stainless steel tea infuser. Place onion slices in colander in sink and pour the boiling water over onions (will wilt a bit). Drain well and transfer onions to bowl with marinade. Cover and allow to marinate at room temp for 1 hour and then refrigerate. I like to transfer the onions and marinade into canning jars, as they will keep in refrigerator for several weeks. They are fabulous on salads, hot or cold sandwiches, pizzas, burgers and all by themselves!
Recipe slightly adapted by The Nutrition Professor from Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without by Mollie Katzen.
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.
My article was published in the Lodi News Sentinel titled “What can you do with an onion?”