I love all kinds of onions, and cook with them all the time. Almost everything I cook has onions and/or garlic. That being said though, after all my years of experience cutting onions, I am still super sensitive to them. My eyes just let loose on the water works and they burn something terrible. It is almost like I have just watched a really sad movie or just received some very sad news when I am crying over onions. I constantly have to stop and clean my eyes while cutting them. The reason we cry while cutting onions is because onions produce a chemical irritant known as syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which stimulates the lachrynal glands in the eyes, and that is what makes us cry. Over the years, I have learned a few tips that are supposed to help with the tears, and I have tried a lot of them. There are still some others I need to try though, but so far, nothing has helped. Here are some of the tips I have learned: 1) freeze the onions before cutting; 2) soak them in cold water; 3) use a super sharp knife; 4) microwave them; 5) keep a piece of bread in your mouth; 6) wear goggles (being a swimmer, I always have goggles on hand, but all they did for me was make me look like a goofball in the kitchen); 7) keep the sliced side of the onion on your cutting board; and 8) chew gum while cutting onions (professional kitchens never allow gum in the kitchen, so for many years this was never even an option for me). Every time I cut onions, and I cry a river while doing so, I think back on my days in culinary school when one of my chef instructors punished me for disagreeing with him, and he made me cut a 10-lb bag of onions. After just a few, I was crying so much and my eyes were burning so badly, he finally gave in and had someone else cut the rest. I think he felt sorry for me. That was cruel and inhumane punishment, I tell you. Even though I cry up a storm when I cut onions, I will never stop using them when I cook, because the taste and texture onions bring to foods, in addition to all their health benefits, are well worth shedding a few tears.
Onions are very healthy. They are very low in calories, high in fiber, and contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and B6. Other health benefits of eating onions are that they are rich in anti-oxidants which help fight cancer. They also contain anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agents. They can also help fight rinoviruses, which are the cause of the common cold and help fight off re-occurrences of other viruses as well. Eating onions can also help regulate blood sugars and and the insulin levels in the body, which allows the body to store less fat. And, they are an excellent source of chromium and potassium too. Because onions are so rich in potassium, they are very heart healthy. The potassium helps regulate the blood circulation in the body, which helps lower the blood pressure. Be careful though, just as with anything, too much of something is NOT a good thing, but can indeed be a bad thing, especially if you are on blood pressure medicine. Eating too much potassium with certain blood pressure medicines can cause some very bad side effects. Always check with your doctor first before consuming a lot of onions and onion products.
The pros and cons of onions …… That being said, the other day, I caramamelized some red onions. You have already seen them on my focaccia, Focaccia with Caramelized Onion Marmalade . I also used them to top some ham I had cooked earlier and taken out of the freezer. The caramelized onions really made the flavors of the ham come to life.
Caramelized Onion Marmalade
1 red onion, sliced very thin
1 TBSP garlic
2 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp thyme and oregano, chopped fine
Heat the oil in a medium hot skillet and add the onions and the sugar. Cook for about 35-45 minutes or until the onions are soft and tender and slightly browned, stirring occasionally. Once the onions start to caramelize, they will brown very quickly, so watch them carefully. You do not want them to burn. Add the rest of the ingredients along with 1/4 cup of water and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.
Saute the onions in hot oil with he sugar for about 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once they start to caramelize, they will brown and burn very quickly if you do not watch them.
Once they start to caramelize, add the garlic and the rest of the ingredients and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, being careful not to let them burn.
Onions in general are very versatile and can be used for almost any dish or recipe. Caramelizing them just adds another dimension to your foods and really makes the flavors pop. Don’t be afraid to add them to your next recipe. Here are some ideas.
Focaccia with Caramelize Onion Marmalade
Ham topped with Caramelized Onion Marmalade.