A Sampling of Preparations Featuring Onions

Carmelized Onion
Roasted Sliced Onions
Indian Onion Fritters (Bhaji)
Onion-Shiitake Miso Soup
Pickled Pepper-Onion Relish

Onions are one of the most ancient of food crops. Although they are too fragile to have left much of an archaeological record from deep in prehistory, “it is likely that they have been eaten for tens of thousands of years,” write Linda and Fred Griffith, authors of Onions Onions Onions: Delicious Recipes for the World’s Favorite Secret Ingredient. Since there are hundreds of wild relatives of the onion scattered through the temperate latitudes of the planet, and since they can so easily be stored and transported, they were “probably cultivated simultaneously in a number of different places.”


Spring onions and a leek from the farmers market in Santa Monica, Calif., June 1, 2005

Their presence in the diet of so many cultures they are also has to do, of course, with the fact that they are a tasty and versatile food item. To be sure, onions have had detractors. In one of the Shakespeare’s reference to them, a character in All’s Well That Ends Well, “Mine eyes smell onions; I shall weep anon.” But they’ve also been revered for millennia. Ancient Egyptian stone carvings from burial sites indicate that piles of spring onions were one of the things some people wanted to take with them when they went.

Carmelized Onion [top]

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced paper thin (about 4 cups)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Melt the butter or olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat until foaming.

2. Add the onions, and let them cook on low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally, until they are deep golden brown,. Season well with salt and pepper, remove from the pan, and let cool.

Roasted Sliced Onions [top]

2 large sweet onions, cut crosswise into half-inch slices
4 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. minced parsley
1 tsp. minced oregano
1 tsp. minced thyme
1 tsp. minced basil
2 tbsp. chopped toasted pinenuts or walnuts
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Heat oven to 450°. Keeping onion slices intact, coat with oil and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake, turning once, for about 15 minutes until they are soft and have begun to caramelize.

2. Mix bread crumbs with melted butter and herbs, and salt and pepper to taste, in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over onion slices and bake for about 15 minutes longer until the topping is golden brown.

Indian Onion Fritters (Bhaji) [top]

2 large onions, sliced thinly
1-1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons rice flour
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black onion seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon coriander, ground
½ cup water
vegetable oil

1. Put the vegetable oil into a large pan and heat over a medium to high heat.

2. Make the batter: In a large bowl, add the chickpea flour, baking powder, rice flour, turmeric, black onion seeds, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and the water. Mix together well and then add the sliced onion – mix the onion through until well coated.

3. Heat oil in a pot filled to a depth of two inches. Check the temperature of the oil by dropping a small cube of bread in. It should brown fairly slowly, not burn or turn dark brown immediately.

4. Carefully deep-fry spoonfuls of the bhaji batter in the oil. Do not overcrowd as they will stick together. Fry them in small batches for 1 to 2 minutes until they are a golden brown and crispy. Remove them with a slotted spoon and allow them to drain on a paper covered plate in a warm oven.

5. Sprinkle with a little salt and serve immediately with a yogurt raita composed of yogurt, diced cucumber, minced mint or cilantro and lemon to taste.

Onion-Shiitake Miso Soup [top]

2 medium onions
6 tablespoons dashi miso
1 tablespoon peanut oil
6 large dried shiitake mushrooms
6 scallions, chopped

1. Soak the mushrooms for 30 minutes in warm water ahead of time.

2. Sliver the onions, saute in a skillet over medium heat in peanut oil, turning often, for 3 minutes then turn down heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 15 or 20 minutes longer, until they begin to carmelize. Add a pinch of sugar, stir and cook for 3 more minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring six cups of water to a simmer and added thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms. Add miso paste to one cup of hot water, stir to dissolve and set aside.

4. When the onions are done, add some of the simmering water to deglaze the skillet, and scrape the onions into the pot with the mushrooms. Then stir in the miso mixture, add the chopped scallions and cook for a minute longer.

Pickled Pepper-Onion Relish [top]

(makes about 9 half-pints)

6 cups onions, finely chopped
3 cups sweet red peppers, finely chopped
3 cups green peppers, finely chopped
1 ½ cups sugar
6 cups vinegar (5%), preferable white
2 tbsp canning or pickling salt

1. Wash and chop vegetables.

2. Combine all ingredients and boil gently until mixture thickens and volume is reduced by one-half (about 30 minutes).

3. Fill sterile jars with hot relish, leaving 1⁄2-inch headspace, and seal tightly. Store in refrigerator and use within one month.

4. If extended storage is desired, jars must be processed immediately after filling in a boiling water canner. Process for 5 minutes at 0–1,000 feet elevation above sea level, 10 minutes from 1,000–6,000 feet, or 15 minutes above 6,000 feet.