Raw, sautéed, grilled, caramelized, fried or boiled, onions can be used in many different ways in an endless variety of dishes. In fact, onions are the most commonly used vegetable across the globe.
We enjoy them for the crisp, spicy bite they provide when raw and the sweet, savoury depth they add when cooked. And while we may not consider them for their nutritional value, they also provide an array of common and not-so-common nutrients.
Onions are a good source of vitamins C and B6, dietary fibre, phosphorus, folate, potassium and manganese. They also contain some calcium, iron and disease-fighting antioxidants. The National Onion Association references studies indicating onions help reduce the risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cataracts, osteoporosis, asthma and allergies. Red, white, yellow or green, all onions are a nutritious and economical choice for us to enjoy.
While the common yellow onion is an economical and tasty option for most dishes, there are times when it’s worth splurging to get a slightly different taste, texture or colour. Here are some characteristics of different onions followed by tips for handling them and some tasty recipes.
- Classic, strong onion flavour and aroma;
- Most likely to produce tears;
- Most versatile, economical and commonly used;
- Long storage life;
- Best for everyday use in cooked dishes, caramelized onions, onion soup.
- Crisp texture with semi-strong flavour and beautiful purple colour;
- Colour fades when cooked;
- Best for raw dishes like salads, salsa, guacamole or in briefly cooked dishes like pizza, stir-fries, egg scrambles;
- Excellent for pickled onions.
- Most crisp and pungent onions;
- Short storage life;
- Best for cooked dishes or where crisp texture and bite are desired, e.g. salsa.
- Mild flavour and smell;
- Short storage life;
- Available April to August under names like Walla Walla, Vidalia, Maui;
- Best for raw dishes like salads, burgers and sandwiches and fried onion rings.
- Mild onion flavour with a hint of garlic;
- Soft texture; very tender when cooked;
- Best in dishes requiring a fine texture with a hint of onion flavour like vinaigrettes, fine sauces and many Asian dishes.
- Long hollow green stems with small white bulbs; names are interchangeable;
- Mild fresh flavour and lovely green colour;
- Best in raw dishes or where cooking time is brief like salads, stir-fries, egg dishes.
Tips and tricks for handling onions
Reduce tears by cooling onions in the freezer for five minutes before slicing, or wear safety goggles or reading glasses while chopping them.
Take the sharp bite out of red, yellow or white onions by soaking them in cold water for 15 minutes after slicing or dicing. Pat dry and enjoy.
Reduce prep time by slicing or dicing a whole bunch of onions at once using a food processor. Lay the chopped onions flat in a thin layer, wrap in plastic wrap and then a freezer bag and freeze for up to three months. Break off a piece as needed for ready access to chopped onions without the hassle.
Eliminate onion odours from cutting boards by rubbing with a little salt and lemon juice.
Keep onions at their best by storing them in a cool, dark, dry place in a paper or mesh bag that’s away from potatoes. The ideal temperature for onions is 4 to 10 C. Storing onions in the fridge causes them to soften and develop an off-flavour while storing them in a warm cupboard causes them to sprout.
Sweet Pickled Red Onions
- 1 red onion
- 3/4 c. cider or white vinegar
- 1/4 c. water
- 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 allspice berries
- 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
Slice onion into rounds about 1/4 inch thick or thinner. Place in glass bowl and cover with ice water for 10 minutes to take out the sharp bite from the onions. Omit this step if you like intense onion flavour. Drain onions and divide into two 1-cup (1/2-pint) jars.
Add one hot pepper to each jar.
In small saucepan mix vinegar, water, sugar, salt, allspice berries, peppercorns in small saucepan. Cover and bring to boil, stirringto dissolve all ingredients.
Pour mixture over onions tocover fully.
Rest until cooled, about 1 hour.
Seal with lid and let flavoursinfuse for two to three days before eating. Once opened, use within3 to 6 months. Closed jars willkeep for up to a year.
Yield: Makes two 1-cup jars.
Mixed Greens with Shallot Vinaigrette
- 4 c. mixed salad greens
- 1/4 c. toasted sliced almonds
- 1/4 c. dried cranberries
- 1 thinly sliced apple or pear
- 1/4 c. crumbled feta, blueor goat cheese
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/3 c. canola oil
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
Top large, decorative platter with salad greens. Layer almonds, cranberries, apple or pear and cheese on top.
To make vinaigrette add all ingredients to jar with lid. Shake well. Drizzle over salad or serve on the side to allow each guest to dress their own salad. Extra vinaigrette can be stored in fridge for 5 days.
Yield: Serves four to six.
Recipes Source: gettystewart.com