Thursday, 13 June 2024

The Veggie Girl: Yumtastic onions

Veggie Girl Esther Oertel looks at onions this week and their value in cooking. Courtesy photo.







I spent a good chunk of Friday afternoon in Sky Hoyt’s Kelseyville onion field. The weather changed minute by minute as we discussed the wonders of the pungent bulb.

This member of the genus Allium evokes strong feelings in me.

I love it for its flavor, its many culinary uses and the delicious scent it emits when cooked; however, I hate my violent reaction to the sulfenic acids released when onions are cut.

I have tried various kitchen tricks to alleviate my eye irritation to no avail. One day, in desperation, I wore my son’s dive mask while I made French onion soup. I may have looked ridiculous, but it was the happiest onion slicing experience I’ve ever had.

The onion has been long thought to have powerful medicinal qualities. They contain chemical compounds believed to have properties that fight various conditions such as inflammation, high cholesterol and cancer; however, such claims have not been conclusively demonstrated.

While this is rare, some people claim to have wild dreams after consuming large quantities of onions. It is theorized that those who experience this are hypersensitive to the compounds in some onions that are similar to those in opium, but in a much milder form.




Red onions grown by local farmer Sky Hoyt, offered at Tuesday's Hidden Valley Lake farmers' market. Photo by Star Laurence.



Onions have been used around the world for ailments as diverse as blisters, bee stings, scars, and sea urchin wounds. The Egyptians worshipped them and certain sects in India avoid eating them because they believe them to be aphrodisiacs.

Man’s relationship with the onion is longstanding. There is evidence they were consumed as early as 7,000 years ago during the Bronze Age. They were probably first cultivated about 2,000 years later.

I just love their flavor. Caramelized onions are like candy to me. On Friday night we grilled onions outdoors and on Saturday morning I caramelized the leftovers and used them in scrambled eggs.

Patience wins all when caramelizing onions. They can’t be rushed, so start them well in advance of when they’re needed. Depending on the recipe, you may wish your onions to be completely brown (and greatly reduced), or you may wish for the lightest touch of color.

I find that onions with the greatest pungency provide the best caramelized flavor.

To caramelize them, slice the onions in rings or dice them. Throw them in a sauté or sauce pan with a generous amount of butter or olive oil, turn on the heat and let them cook. (And cook. And cook some more.)

Start with medium-high heat, and once they get going, reduce the heat a bit. They’ll need an occasional stir and your watchful eye so they don’t burn.

When they’ve softened and have started to develop a brown color, the caramelization process has begun. It’s up to you to decide how far you’d like them to go in the process.




The white

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