What would food be without onions? This is a product that has been filling the culinary needs of every thinking cook from the homemaker to the master chef. Without a member of the onion family, some dishes would be flat and insipid. What’s more alluring than the scent of diced onions, celery and green pepper sautéing in olive oil or butter, the base of so many recipes?
Aside from their recognition as a flavor booster, onions enjoy a reputation for their nutritive value. Low in calories and sodium, they provide some calcium, folic acid, potassium and selenium, vitamin C, and a fair amount of vitamin A and the B vitamins. They also contain quercetin, which may be helpful in guarding against cataracts, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Incidentally, quercetin is unaffected by chopping, but some studies show that when boiled for 60 minutes, its value was reduced by 20 percent.
Whether used in simple everyday dishes, culinary triumphs, or raw in salads or sandwiches, onions are indispensable.
For a unique go-with for meat, poultry or fish, present onions on their own. Try roasted whole yellows dressed with an herby butter sauce: While roasting 4 peeled medium whole yellows, gather the leaves of washed fresh herbs, such as sage, marjoram, oregano or thyme, to make a packed 1/4 cup. In a small skillet, melt 1/4 cup butter. Add the herbs. Cook, stirring over medium heat until butter begins to brown and herbs are crisp. Do not allow butter or herbs to burn. When onions are soft, remove from oven, cut onions in half and pour on herb butter. Makes 8 servings.
Large onions are ideal vehicles for fillings, such as this medley of vegetables nestled in hollowed-out yellows, an ideal vegetarian dish, or halved for a tasty side dish.
VEGETABLE MEDLEY IN ONION CUPS
4 large yellow onions (9 to 11 ounces each)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound yellow summer squash, cut in julienne strips
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced, optional
2 medium tomatoes, cubed
1/3 cup minced Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
1 cup white wine, or chicken or vegetable broth
Peel onions; cut flat slice off base of each onion, leaving root base intact so they will stand upright. Hollow out onions, leaving 1/2-inch shells. Chop onion removed from centers. Place onion shells in large skillet; add 1 inch water, cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently 25 minutes or until tender. Remove onions from skillet with slotted spoon and drain; keep warm. Empty skillet; add oil and heat. Add chopped onion, squash, mushrooms, celery, red pepper and garlic; sauté over medium heat until tender-crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, parsley, tarragon and wine; cook 2 minutes longer. Nestle onion shells into serving dish and fill with vegetable mixture. Makes 4 servings.