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Onions and How To Use Them

Onions, from your traditional brown onion, to your vidalia onion, walla walla onion, Maui sweet onion, purple/red onion, green, spring or white onion over to your shallot, are incredible additions to hearty savory and light airy dishes alike. Although I only like raw onions as mild accents to a more robust salad, sandwich or appetizer, I'm an absolute addict when it comes to onions cooked in things. When you approach it with the right finesse, you're able to transform an ordinary meal or dish into the unforgettable; and I mean that in the good way.

Here are four ways I like to use my onions:

1. When I use my onions raw, I go for the thin slices to delicately accentuate the flavors in the dish that it will play to well. I find that the spicy, pungent flavors it imparts to a well planned hoagie or submarine sandwich are a definite must. They cut through the fat in the sandwich and let you know that they're there without shouting and stealing the focus. For this I'm a fan of the white onion.

2. If the raw is in a nice salad I like to use the green and the sweet onions: red/purple, the Maui, walla walla or vidalia onions. There are far more varieties to choose from, but that would take a lot more time to go into beyond this short article.

3. If I'm using my onions in salsas I go for the brown onion. It's familiar, delicious and, I don't care what the critics say, it does taste different than the white onion. Quite frankly... it looks better too. For my salsas I put a nice dice on it. No more than a half inch in size to mix with my tomato, lime, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, salt and, some may turn up their noses at the thought of this, but, oil; yes oil. I like to put a little bit of oil in my salsa to carry the flavors a little deeper than if I were to go without it.

4. When I'm using it in hot sauces, curries, soups and/or stews, I don't want to use the sweet onions; instead I like to sweeten the more hearty ones using heat. When heat is applied to the sulfur in the onions, there's a chemical reaction that it undergoes and the sulfur in the onions are transformed into sugars. It's a very tasty process! So my first choice is usually the brown or even the more distinct shallot. They add a nice earthy, savory sweet to your dishes.

The next time you're in your grocery or at your farmers' market shopping for onions, pick up a few of a different hue and experiment with them. Here's what I used to have my students do. Pick a type of onion one week, get a large bag of onions [I use to work with the 50lb bags] and begin to work with them. Boil some, marinate some, fry some, saute some, salt some, pickle some, burn some, bruise some and on and on to get a feel all of the things you can do with them. When you've finished your trials, you'll be an expert in what you can do with them and how to apply them to different dishes. It's an education you would hardly be able to get any other way.

As always, it's been my pleasure sharing with you. Until next time...

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