Thursday, June 21, 2012

Everything Is Coming Up Onions! Plus A Tuscan “Onion Soup” Recipe

Everything is coming up Onions! All types, sizes and colors are all around us. They are sold in grocery stores and farmers markets all across the United States. Some onions are highlighted at sporting events, have been featured in movies, and written about in books. They add flavor to recipes for everything from breakfast to gourmet dinners. Onions can be eaten with your fingers, dipped in sauces, and covered with spices. You can eat them raw, grilled, cooked in soups, and caramelized or sautéed. So, come on with me and let’s see what onions are really all about.

The onion is believed to have originated in Asia, but it is likely that they may have been growing wild on every continent. Dating back to 3500 BC, onions were one of the foods that did not spoil during the winter months. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion, believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternity. In the Middle Ages, onions were used to pay rent and were given as gifts. Native American Indians used wild onions by eating them raw and cooking them. Onions not only provide flavor; but they also provided health benefits as well.
Italian Cippolini Onions

Did you know that Onions are high in energy and water content? They are low in calories, and have abundant amounts of B6, B1, and Folic acid. Chemical compounds in onions are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Raw onions have also been helpful in reducing swelling from bee stings. In the USA products that contain onion extract are used in the treatment of topical scars. According to an American chemist the chemicals in onions also have the potential to alleviate or prevent sore throats. While members of the onion family appear to have medicinal properties for humans, they can be deadly for dogs, cats, and guinea pigs.

Onions come in an assortment of sizes, colors, and shapes. Yellow, red, and white are the three colors of onions. Yellow onions are full-flavored and are mostly used in cooking. These onions turn a rich, dark brown color when cooked. The red onion, with its wonderful color, is a good choice for eating raw, or in grilling. While the white onions are traditional for cooking. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when sautéed. The Cippolini onion is specific to Italian cooking and is smaller in size. This onion can vary in colors, but the most common is the yellow Cippolini in a flatter shape. They are bittersweet bulbs that come from the grape hyacinth. Cippolini onions are delicious for pickling, and boiling, but are perfect for skewers, grilling, and roasting.
I know that when I am peeling onions or even cutting them, my eyes water and tear up. Here are some tips on avoiding teary eyes. To make onions milder, soak them in milk or pour boiling water over the slices and let stand. Rinse with cold water. Eye irritation can be avoided by cutting onions under running water. Another way to reduce irritation is by chilling, or by not cutting the root of the onion as that is the part that has the highest concentration of enzymes which activates the gas, so our eyes water. If you use a sharp blade to chop the onions, this will help with the tearing of your eyes.

How about some onion trivia? 1. What should you eat to get rid of onion breath? (Parsley) See if you get this one correct? 2. New York City is known as the Big Apple. Before having that nickname, it was known by a different nickname. What was that name? (New York City was called the “Big Onion” because it was a place from which you could peel off layer after layer without ever reaching the core.)

My recipe this week is my version of Mary Ann Esposito’s, “Onion Soup From Tuscany” or “Zuppa di Cippolle di Toscana” taken from “Ciao Italia”. Hope that you enjoy and try different types of onions in your next meal.

Onion Soup From Tuscany

6 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 pound of pancetta or bacon, diced
5 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
5 1/2 cups of HOT beef or vegetable broth, low sodium (canned)
1/2 cups of dry red wine of your choice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 slices of coarse bread cut in 1/2 -inch thick
1 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese & Swiss cheese combined

In a large soup pot heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat, add the pancetta or bacon and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the onions, cover the pot and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, stirring often. When the onions are soft and limp pour in the broth and wine. Stir the mixture. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep the soup warm while you brown the bread. Preheat the broiler. Heat the remaining olive oil in a sauté pan and brown the bread on both sides. Drain the slices on paper towels, then place a slice in the bottom of each individual bowl. Pour the soup over the bread and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Broil until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Till Next Time………………….

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