Week 24: A Good Cry
Have you ever heard of an "ugly veggie" club? The concept is taking imperfect produce that doesn't meet grocer standards and selling it at a discount. While the waste reduction is commendable, the underlying issue is that society has become completely disconnected from their food source. People want perfect looking food and believe that "imperfect" is inedible and inferior. Here at Moutoux, we know that isn't true. Real food isn't perfect. An occasional bug in your lettuce, a funky looking carrot, dirt on your potatoes - that is real farm food. And I love it all.
You know what else I love?? Onions! Onions and their cousins - shallots, leeks, scallions, and ramps (aka wild leeks) - are all alliums. Not only are onions delicious, they are excellent sources of Vitamin C, sulphuric compounds, flavanoids, and phytochemicals (https://www.livescience.com/45293-onion-nutrition.html). Pro Farm Tip: The outer most layers of the onion hold the most nutrients so try not to over peel during your prep.
The most common onions are the round storage onions that are white, yellow, or red. Although storage onions are considered to be at peak season in fall, they are harvested year round. We had scallions back in early June, and summer onions with the green tops and leeks in July. The spring and summer alliums have a milder and sweeter flavor than those harvested in the fall and winter.
Organically grown onions have a higher tendency to have a bad layer or ring. It comes with the real food territory folks. When this happens, it is NOT necessary to throw it away. That would be a crying shame! Because onions are made of separated cells, if one group of cells turns bad, the entire vegetable is not affected. You can remove the bad part, give the remaining onion a little rinse if needed, and move on with your meal prep.
And why the tears!? Well, onions release a gas when its cells are damaged/crushed, which reacts with natural tears in your eyes and forms sulfuric acid. There are many reported ways to reduce the tears when cutting onions. However, none of these methods work very well. The best way to reduce the tears is to use a sharp knife and work quickly to reduce the amount of cell damage to the onion. In addition, begin cutting the onion at the stem and work your way to the root end. Your next best bet is to get a set of cheap plastic goggles at the hardware store.
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 pounds onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Heat the butter and the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When the butter melts, stir in the onions and salt. Cover the pot and cook, setting your timer to stir every 10 minutes, until the onions turn gold and the bottom of the pan is coated with a brown crust. (if the onions begin to burn at any point, reduce the heat to medium-low.) This will take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the moisture content of the onions.
When the onions are ready, use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, stirring to integrate the bits into the onions. Keep the pot uncovered , cooking and scraping until the onions are a deep golden brown, another 2-3 minutes.
Notes: (1) The onions best qualities come out when they are cooked. As the water content in the onion evaporates during cooking, its natural sugars are intensified and the flavor becomes much sweeter. This is especially true when the onion is caramelized. (2) This recipe makes a lot. They are good in the fridge for ~5 days, and it's recommended to freeze in 1/2 cup portions. The defrost as good as new.
CARAMELIZED ONION DIP
1 cup caramelized onions (recipe above)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves)
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the onions are broken down and the dip is well combined. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before serving. The dip will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Notes: Serve with cut celery, carrots, kohlrabi fries, or potato chips. Recipe courtesy of Eating from the Ground Up by Alana Chernila.
HOMEMADE ONION POWDER
Onions, sliced thinly
Clean and slice onions as thin as possible. If using the oven method preheat oven to the lowest setting.
Place on dehydrator tray or baking sheet if using the oven.
Dry until there is absolutely no moisture left in them. In a dehydrator this took 6 hours, but in the oven it could take up to 12 hours.
Once the onions are completely dehydrated place in food processor and process until you have a fine powder. DO NOT open processor right away, let the onion powder settle first.
Store in an airtight container and enjoy!
CLASSIC FRENCH ONION SOUP
2 oz. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, more for the baking sheet
4 medium-large onions (about 2 lb.), thinly sliced (8 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 small baguette (1/2 lb.), cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 quarts beef broth
1 bay leaf
2 cups grated Gruyère
Make fresh or thaw frozen caramelized onions.
Meanwhile, to make the croûtes (baguette toasts), position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the baguette slices on the sheet in a single layer. Bake until the bread is crisp and lightly browned, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
Add the broth and bay leaf to the caramelized onions and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Happy Veterans Day and THANK YOU to all who serve and have served in our military.