It’s Sweet Onion Time

Straight from New York City, I am excited to introduce you to Dana Jacobi, my guest blog post author this week!  Dana is the author of 10 best-selling cookbooks.  Her most recent book, “Cook & Freeze” has 150 delicious dishes to serve now and later – which is brilliant for the busy lifestyles we all lead.  Dana is not just an author thought! She is a culinary instructor, lecturer and writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column called Something Different.  Dana had a talent for keeping food tasty, healthy and simple.   In her post she’ll be sharing her love for sweet onions and a recipe for cold soup out of “Cook & Freeze” that I’m sure you’ll want to try!

IT’S SWEET ONION TIME

Juicy, sweet onions are one of my favorite summer ingredients. The best known varieties, from California, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, are harvested and shipped to stores nationally all summer. Also, you may find locally grown sweet onions at a nearby farmers market, since they grow in other states, as well ADD LINK.

Loaded with phytochemicals, sweets taste milder than other onions because their higher water content dilutes the pungent compounds. Every sweet onion variety also has its own distinctive flavor, thanks to a combination of natural genetics, minerals in the soil, and local weather that contribute to what the French call terroir.

I have adored sweet onions since I first tasted one that friends with a farm in Vidalia, Georgia picked and brought to New York City. That was in the 1980s, when you had to mail order sweet onions unless you lived in or near where they were being grown. Back then, these onions were shipped so fresh that when sliced they literally dripped a sugar-sweet, milky white juice. All that liquid, though, made them hard to sauté and to store. Today, still bright and fresh but allowed to sit long enough after harvesting to be protected by a thin, light tan skin that lets them ship and store well, sweet onions are easier to enjoy in many ways.

I add raw sweet onions to all kinds of salads, from fruity Waldorf, and Asian slaw made with Napa cabbage, to combinations including leafy spinach. I also like them cooked in hot curries, where their sweetness balances off against the bitter undertone in turmeric and in chile peppers. Sweet onions are good, too, with sweet potatoes, for example in Southern Pork Chop Casserole from Cook & Freeze, my most recent cookbook.

Zucchini Vichyssoise is another recipe from Cook & Freeze made with sweet onions. To enjoy this refreshing cold soup often during hot weather, I make double batches, then freeze half. Thanks to using cream cheese in place of cream or milk, the pale green soup remains velvet-smooth and creamy when defrosted.  Unlike classic vichyssoise, this version, made without potatoes, is blissfully low in carbs.

Zucchini Vichyssoise

Makes 6 servings

Using cream cheese in place of cream gives the cold soup both body and a nice tang. Serve it in clear glass bowls to show off its delicate green color.

Ingredients:

3 medium zucchini, 1-1/2 pounds

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1 medium leek, white part only, chopped

6 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt

1/3 cup snipped chives or chopped dill, for garnish

Directions: Halve each squash lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds. Shred the squash, using the coarsest side of a box grater; there should be 4 cups.

In a deep saucepan, bring the broth to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, and leek. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender but not falling apart, 15 minutes. Uncover, and cool the soup for 10 minutes.

With an immersion blender, whirl in the cream cheese a few cubes at a time, along with the white pepper and cayenne, stopping before the soup is completely smooth; it should still have some texture. Or, puree the soup in a blender, dropping the cheese in through the top. This may require working in 2 batches. Season to taste with salt. Cool the soup to room temperature.

If serving now, refrigerate the soup, covered, until well chilled, 6 to 24 hours. Divide it among wide, shallow bowls, and garnish with chives or dill.

To freeze, divide the soup among resealable 1-quart plastic freezer bags and refrigerate to chill.

Freeze the bags of chilled soup flat on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

To defrost, thaw the soup on a plate in the refrigerator. If the soup is grainy, whirl it briefly in a blender. Pour into wide, shallow bowls, garnish with chives or dill, and serve.

Posted in Cooking Tips, General, Guest Blogger, Health and Nutrition | 4 Comments

Dip Into Summer (a little early)!

Boy, this week has been rainy and cool here! Seems like a lot of places around the country are experiencing that same weather pattern.  Maybe that explains why I’m in the mood for a good ol’ dose of chips & dip?

Now, I’m generally not a chip & dip gal, but when I get the craving, this combo is the only one that hits the spot for me.  Hot or cold, a good homemade onion dip is easy to make and tastes WAY better than store bought.  Go ahead, give these a try.  I think you’ll agree.   Besides, with all the summer holiday’s, picinics and BBQ’s around the corner, these recipes are just in time for all those get togethers.

Hot Baked Onion Dip

1 cup raw onion, chopped
1 4 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Combine all the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust according to your preference.  Place everything in a baking dish.  Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven until the top is golden brown, about 30-50 minutes.  Serve warm, with salt and pepper flavored kettle chips or sweet potato chips. 

Option:  Chop 4 large onions.  Melt 1-2 tablespoons butter in a pan large enough for all the onions.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of oil and heat. Next, add the onions and cook on medium-low heat until they caramelize.  Add these in place of the raw onions for an extra savory dip!

Cool n’ Creamy Onion Dip 

 

 2 cups finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup regular or light sour cream
   salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:  Heat oil in large skillet.  Add onion; cook over medium heat stirring often, 3 minutes, or until barely tender.  Stir in paprika.  Combine onion mixture and sour cream in medium bowl.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.  Cover; refrigerate until ready to serve.  Makes 10 servings or 1-2/3 cups. Great with other veggies, chips, or crispy breads.

Fun serving idea!  Serve your dip in an onion.  Here’s how:  Cut off top third of large red onion.  Trim small edge off root end to make flat support. Peel onion.  Scoop out inner layers, leaving outer two layers intact.  Spoon dip into hollow onion.

Happy Dipping!

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Pizza Crazy Week

This week I’m pizza crazy! And when you think about it, why not?  Afterall, pizza is just about as versatile as our favorite veggie, the humble onion.  And when it comes to toppings for pizza onions add flavor, color and texture!  What more can you ask for?

In addition to sharing a few of our favorite pizza recipes (see below), check out the great article  that came out last week in Pizza Today that talks about onions in relationship to America’s favorite pie.

Tuscan Pizza

After a full day of work or family activities, this pizza will help you get dinner on the table quickly. This simple pizza combines the convenience of a pre-made crust with the mouth-watering flavor of sweet and mellow home-sautéed onions, peppers and turkey sausage. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

1/2 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

2 large onions, cut into narrow wedges

1 large green pepper, cut into narrow strips

1 large red pepper, cut into narrow strips

1 -1/2 cups bottled pasta sauce

1 prepared pizza crust* (about 11-inch)

1 bag shredded mixed cheeses (8 ounce)

Oregano (optional)

Directions:  Slice sausage into 1/4-inch coin slices.  Place slices in skillet with oil and sauté about 3 minutes, turning once during cooking.  Remove from pan.  Add onion and pepper strips to the pan and sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat until tender.  Spread pasta sauce on pizza crust.  Sprinkle with half the cheese.  Top with sausage and onion mixture.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and oregano.  Bake in pre-heated 425 degrees oven for about 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden.

*Use a prepared, bread-style pizza crust.  If not available, use a frozen cheese pizza, omit the sauce and reduce the shredded cheese to l cup, sprinkling only on top of ingredients.  You may also use pop-open cans (13.8 ounce size) of pizza crust.  Shape dough into 11 x 13-inch rectangle, prebake as directed on can.  Top with ingredients as directed above and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.   Makes 8 wedges, about 4 servings.  

 

Caramelized Onion, Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza from Panzano

Executive Chef Elise Wiggins at Panzano in Denver, Colorado takes pizza to a new altitude with this fresh yet savory combinatation that I think is just amazing!  If you’re in the Mile High City, I recommend stopping in for lunch or dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza Del Giorno

Here’s another quick and easy pizza. This one gets some an extra savory flavor with caramelized onions and walnuts!

For the recipe click here: Pizza Del Giorno

 

 

 

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Chef Paula DaSilva

What is better than a creamy luscious potato gratin?

A creamy luscious potato gratin baked in a sweet onion! 

That’s what young and talented Executive Chef Paula DaSilva brought to the menu at the chic new farm to table eatery 1500° located in the renovated historic hotel, Eden Roc Renaissance in Miami Beach. And, this week it’s my pleasue to introduce you to her. 

Chef DaSilva’s stuffed Sweet Onion Potato Gratin is one of the signature sides on her menu designed around farm fresh ingredients as well as steakhouse influences. “I work hard to keep the menu offerings at 1500° exciting but familiar and love serving a traditional dish in an unusual but approachable new way,” says DaSilva. “The gratin stuffed onion is so decadent and delicious, it just oozes when you cut into it. The guests love it.”

 

Stuffed Sweet Onion & Potato Gratin

From Executive Chef Paula DaSilva

1500° at Eden Roc – Miami, Florida

Yields 6

INGREDIENTS          WEIGHTS/MEASURES

Yukon potatoes  3

Cream  1 cup

Horseradish  1 tablespoon

Minced garlic  1 tablespoon

Gruyere cheese  1/2 cup, grated

Salt  to taste

Sweet yellow onions  6 medium, whole

Milk  2 cups

Bay leaves  2

Water

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper  to taste

METHOD:  Peel and thinly slice the potatoes.  Bake in a small covered dish with the cream, horseradish and garlic at 325 degrees F for about 25 minutes.  Remove the potatoes from the oven.  Mix in the cheese until melted and season with salt to taste.  Let the mixture cool and then refrigerate.

Place whole, unpeeled onions in a large pot.  Add milk, bay leaves, a bit of salt and enough water to cover everything.  Bring the mixture to a boil;  turn the onions down to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove onions from the heat and let them cool in the liquid. 

When cooled, remove onions from the milk.  Peel and core the onion from the bottom, leaving about 1/2-inch of onion all around.  Carefully stuff the onions with the potato gratin mixture.  Place the cut side down in a baking dish and season the onion on top with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Bake the onions in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes before serving.

Posted in Chefs, General, Restaurants | 1 Comment

Say Cheese!

Today, I discovered April is National Grilled Cheese Month! Naturally, being a fan of the ooey gooey goodness of melting cheese I was spurred to share one of life’s BEST savory combinations ever. Betcha can’t guess what I’m going to say can you?! Yes, of course, onions and cheese!  Before you call me crazy, check out these two great panini’s from our recipe collection.  Then, be sure to take a look at the recipes we found lurking on the web and deemed celebration worthy.

Stuffed Panini with Sautéed Onions & Swiss Cheese

This is the budget-friendly way to create a tasty panini, even if you don’t have the fancy grill!

 Ingredients:

2 medium to large onions, peeled and trimmed

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

4 to 8 ounces sliced deli chicken or shredded leftover chicken

1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded and sliced or 1 large tomato, sliced

2 cups fresh spinach

4 seeded burger buns or other large round rolls

4 to 6 ounces sliced Swiss cheese

Dry crumbled basil, to taste (optional)

Slice onions into rings and sauté in oil over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until tender.  Layer chicken, bell pepper and spinach leaves evenly onto bottoms of the 4 buns.  Top each bun with sautéed onions, cheese and basil.  Close buns. Place one sandwich at a time into preheated Panini maker or other hinged contact grill (may fit two at a time with larger grill).  Grill 10 to 12 minutes or until golden, hot and melted. 

Note: if you don’t have a hinged grill, cook sandwiches over medium-low heat about 10 minutes in a preheated, oiled heavy skillet, with another skillet pressing down on top. Watch the top pan as the buns cook.  As the cheese melts the buns may slide and the top pan may need to be stabilized.  Makes 4 servings.

 

Spicy Onion Panini with Basil and Roasted Red Pepper

 Similar to the panini above, but dressed up!

Ingredients:

8 cups (2 quarts) yellow onion, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil   

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 ciabatta rolls     

Aioli (recipe follows)

1 cup basil leaves

1 cup roasted red pepper strips

8 ounces sharp white Cheddar, sliced

1/2 cup pitted Calamata olives, halved

2 ounces prosciutto or pancetta, in paper-thin slices (optional)

Directions:  Caramelize onions over low heat in oil about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden; mix in red pepper flakes.  Split ciabatta rolls and brush inside lightly with Aioli.  For each serving, layer bottom of roll with 1/4 cup basil leaves, then 3/4 cup caramelized onion, then 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, 2 ounces cheese and 2 tablespoons olives.  Add 1/2 ounce prosciutto if desired.  Close the rolls and brush with aioli.  Place each one in panini grill set at medium.  Slowly close lid (somewhat flattening sandwich inside) and grill 15 minutes or until golden and melted.  Makes 4 servings.

Aioli:  Combine in electric blender 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 2 medium cloves garlic and a dash of salt.  Process until blended and slightly thickened.  Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Makes about 1/2 cup.

The following recipes were just a few of the great ideas we found lurking on the web.  We’re sure you’ll be inspired to get into the kitchen to make your own savory-cheesey-be-gooey creation.

Julia Child’s Grilled Onion Sandwich

“Inside-Out” Grilled Cheese with Red Onion Jam

Grilled Cheese Onion Sandwich

French Onion Grilled Cheese

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A Cartoon About Onions!

I am so excited I could hardly wait to write this post! I just discovered an old cartoon about onions and it’s absolutely adorable!  According to contributors of the blog Classic Cartoons, “The Tears of an Onion” is a Fleischer Color Classic released in 1938. This cartoon is notable for several reasons. One, it’s the only Color Classic still protected by copyright and because of that, it couldn’t be included on “Somewhere in Dreamland” DVD collection, and two, it is relatively rare and unknown to many classic cartoon fans.  You can read the entire post and see the screenshots of this rare cartoon (including the original Paramount opening and closing titles) here http://bit.ly/dFmagv.

On that note, how about a snack?  This one is tasty, quick to make and versatile. For example, use pesto instead of pizza sauce and add a few slices of canadian bacon . . . Yummy x’s 10!

Crusty Onion Bruschetta

Ingredients:

1  French bread baguette (about 8 ounces)

4 ounces light cream cheese

1/2 cup nonfat or low fat ricotta cheese

2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 cup pizza sauce, canned

1 medium onion, cut into paper-thin wedges

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Parsley (fresh or dried optional)

Directions:  Split bread in half lengthwise.  Pull out some bread from center of each half, leaving a 1/2-inch shell.  Beat cheeses and herbs with fork and spread mixture along length of both bread halves.  Place a ribbon of pizza sauce and a single layer of onions over cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake on baking sheet at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until onion is tender and tips are slightly blackened, but crust is not too dark.  Sprinkle with parsley if desired.  Cut crosswise into narrow strips.  Makes 8 servings.

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Onion Skins In the Bin!

Have you gone to the store to find onions swimming in a debris of their own skins?  Yes, I’m afraid it’s that time of year, but never fear . . . spring is very near!

If you’ve asked why so many skins in the bin, here’s your answer.  Storage type onions, as they near the end of the season, shrink ever so slightly.  This slight loss of moisture can cause the shedding of a layer or two of their papery skins.  As we near the end of the storage season, you can expect to see a few extra skins in the onion bin at your grocery store and at home.

On the upside, skins in the onion bin signal Spring’s arrival.  Growers in Texas have reved up their harvest equipment and are working hard to bring you the spring crop of onions!  Georgia, California, and Arizona will be getting geared up for harvest this month as well.  So, what will you do with your first  purchase of the new crop?  Will you make a crisp, refreshing salad full of juicy onion or will you cut up some thick slices for your first burger of the season, hot off the grill? 

Here at onion headquarters, my co-workers have voted for a thick juicy slice on a burger.  Let us know what your plans are, we’d love to hear from you.

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Happy Birthday Onionista!

The Onionista celebrates her first blog-birthday or anniversary March 2, 2011.  Help her celebrate by trying this fun new recipe!

Here’s to you Onionista!

Chilled Mango-Caramelized Onion Soup with Shrimp

Chilled soup is the perfect toast!

Ingredients:
3 cups sliced onion (12 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups mango pulp
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Sour cream
Fresh dill weed
2 ounces small cooked shelled shrimp

Directions:  Sauté onions gently in oil until tender and sweet, about 15 minutes.  Set aside 1/3 cup onion for topping.  Turn remaining onion into electric blender along with mango, broth, coconut milk, chopped fresh dill and pepper.  Process until pureed.  Chill.  Serve in wide-rimmed bowls or stemmed glasses with a dollop of sour cream in center of each.  Curl the reserved onion over the sour cream and garnish each with fresh dill and small kabob of shrimp.   Makes 1 quart, 4 to 6 servings.

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Onions to Move an Army

One of my favorite onion quotes is rooted in American history.  It goes like this.  In 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant declared in an advisory to the federal government, “I will not move my army without onions!” 

Likewise, General Robert E. Lee complained the Confederate congress was unable “to do anything except eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving….” 

Fortunately for Grant and the troops, his demand was met.  Immediately, Grant was sent three traincar-loads of the flavorful bulbs which were appreciated by soldiers for both their flavor and antiseptic properties when used to treat powder burns. 

When I learned about this interesting fact, it broght to light just how difficult it was to get food to the military camps.   Food perservation was in it’s infancy. 

It was Napoleon who first stated that an army marches on its stomach, an idea that has been repeated frequently during times of war as recently as Desert Storm.  In fact, Napoleon was so firm in his belief he offered a heafty prize to anyone who discovered a way to get better food to the French army.  Nicholas Appert, a confectioner, won the prize  in 1795 by discovering the process of hermetically sealing food. In 1810 a patent was taken out in England for Appert’s method, and soon the idea spread to America, where lobster and salmon were the first foods canned.  

In 1823 an American, Thomas Kensett, invented the tin can. By the late 1860’s many foods were being canned.  In fact, during the civil war the Northern army used this to their military advantage.  Unfortunately, The South experienced major food shortages and the Civil War marched on slowly.  Source: www.foodhistory.com 

When your army of hungry folks come marching in the door, here’s a great recipe to fill them up, even on a budget! 

Italian Pork and Onion Pasta

Fit for an army, this flavorful dish can be prepared on a budget, with time to spare.

Ingredients: 
1-1/4    pounds pork loin sirloin chops or pork shoulder blade steaks
2          teaspoons oregano and ground cumin
2          tablespoons olive oil
1          medium onion (10 ounces), cut into narrow wedges
1          can (14 1/2 ounces) Italian recipe stewed tomatoes
1          package (9 ounce) fresh linguini or fettuccini pasta
Grated Parmesan and fresh minced or dried herbs like oregano or marjoram

Directions:  Trim fat from the chops or blade steaks.  Trim the meat from bones, and cut into small cubes.  Dust pork with oregano and cumin.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and pork and sauté until cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add tomatoes and heat.  Cook linguine in boiling water about 2 minutes or as package directs.  Drain and serve with pork-onion sauce on top. Sprinkle with cheese and herbs.  Makes 4 servings.

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Secret Chocolate Cake

Okay, I admit that chocolate is usually paired with fruit so when you talk about onions and chocolate together, it might seem unusual.  But seriously, you really should try Caramelized Secret Chocolate Cake with caramelized onions.  The first time I tried it I couldn’t believe how moist and deliciously chocolaty it tasted.  I admit, I am not a huge chocolate lover, but my hubbie sure is and we both really enjoyed this cake.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s on the request list for Valentine’s Day dinner!

Caramelized Secret Chocolate Cake

 Ingredients: 

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar
Chocolate Frosting (I prefer the Ganache Frosting from Epicurious below)

Directions:  Melt chocolate in saucepan, stirring over low heat, or in microwave oven. Caramelize onion by sautéing over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes in 2 tablespoons oil in skillet until soft. In large bowl, beat remaining oil with sugar, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly mixed and fluffy, about 2 or 3 minutes. Beat in warm melted chocolate and caramelized onions. Mix flour with baking soda and salt; stir into batter alternately with milk. Divide batter evenly into 2 well-greased and floured 8-inch round layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until a pick inserted into center comes out dry. Cool 15 minutes then invert onto wire racks to thoroughly cool. Spread on icing.  Makes 12 servings.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting (from Epicurious)

Ingredients: 

1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate (Callebaut)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Directions:  Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.  Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).  Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides.

Tip:  Cake will have the best flavor and texture the first day. Refrigerate after the first day.  Onion flavor will start to come through as cake stands for 2 to 3 days.

For those of you who are true blue chocoloate lovers or chocoholics I recommend checking out this great blog http://michaelinhiskitchen.blogspot.com.  Michael has some wonderful recipes for you to try and great information about chocolate!

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