There is no better staple vegetable to stock in your kitchen than onions. They are versatile, long-lasting and, the occasional tear aside, known to be very good for you. My favorite chef, Meredith McCarty recommends to have at least one member of the allium family a day, whether in the form of onions, shallots, leeks or garlic. According to Michael Pollan, chopping onions is the sine qua non of routine culinary tasks. Come and chop some onions with us!
Onions’ claim to fame in the health department is manifold. They contain pre-biotics which aid the beneficial bacteria in your gut necessary to facilitate the absorption of calcium thereby helping your bones become stronger. In general, the allium family is packed with health-benefitting compounds including thiosulfinates, sulfides, and other smelly sulfur oxides as well as powerful antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral. Along with apples, they are a great source of quercetin, a flavonoid that is associated with having beneficial effects on chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Particularly garlic is rich in sulfides that help lower blood pressure. Flavonoids in general can be used to alleviate the symptoms of asthma and hay-fever. In fact, my friend Susanne recommends to hang a mesh sack of freshly sliced onions on the bed frame and to wrap sautéed onions on the chest to relieve a stuffy nose and a cough. OK, the bedroom might not smell the best, but I hope it will help you feel better soon.
One point of contention is how to properly store onions. Choose a cool, ventilated place, away from potatoes as they will not do well together and both spoil. Cut onions can be stored up to seven days in a sealed container in the fridge. And as you probably remember from last week, the EWG has included onions in its recently published list of the Clean Fifteen, its list of fresh produce least contaminated with pesticides.
So now that we have learned why onions are so good for us, what is an easy way to incorporate them into our diet? For starters, onions are a must in any soup, risotto, stew and stir-fry, often alongside carrots and celery. They also taste great in salads, salsas and other condiments. This time of year, my CSA box is filled with lovely fresh young onions that are great just sautéed with a little fresh garlic and served as is or over roasted vegetables. Onions in general, but leeks in particular, are great as a dish on their own whether as a leek soup, a tartlette or blanched and served as a fresh salad with a tasty egg-based dressing. A little more time-intensive but very rewarding are caramelized onions that are easy to make and offer a unique sweet/sour addition to mashed sweet potatoes or over a pizza topped with squash, potatoes and fresh goat cheese. The options are endless. Come and cook with us.