Onions can be the star of any show — behind the curtain

The best thing about onions is that they can be the star of the show without anyone knowing it. We are aware that there are a few people who don’t prefer the texture of onions, but this sweet onion pesto is proof that you don’t have miss out on the onion’s tasty flavor! Sautéing onions makes them rich, sweet, and soft, allowing them to blend into this savory treat.

Onion pesto recipe

This Basil, Walnut and Sweet Onion Pesto is a great way to infuse onions’ flavor and nutritional attributes into the diet.

 

While not everyone likes onions, not everyone has tasted the variety of ways an onion can be cooked. In fact, when most people say they don’t like onions, they are more concerned about texture rather than flavor.

“No one is ever going to say these onions are great in here, and if they do comment on the onions, usually something is wrong (with the recipe),” says Linda Carucci, former dean of California Culinary Academy, a culinary instructor and author of the critically acclaimed Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks. “Onions provide depths of flavor like nothing else.”

Onions — with a naturally protectant outer skin to ward off food-borne illnesses — also provide enough nutritional and health benefits that including them in your recipes will help your body develop a healthy gut, fight off inflammation, and potentially help your body fight off cancer. So it’s worthwhile to get the most out of this natural ninja.

Sneaking it into your recipes could be the equivalent of sneaking spinach into your berry smoothies – but with the added bonus of adding flavor rather than flying under the radar.

We suggest you start small with this Basil, Walnut and Sweet Onion Pesto. The onions hiding inside this sweet onion pesto give a boost to any meal or snack. Use it to top crackers, garnish pizzas, fill sandwiches, or as a spread for your favorite avocado toast.

Basil, Walnut, Sweet Onion Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 ½ cups packed fresh basil leaves

¼ cup chopped raw walnuts

5 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste

Preparation

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned and softened. Set aside to cool.

Add the basil and the cooled onions to a small food processor. Pulse 4 to 5 times until finely chopped. Add the walnuts, cheese, lemon juice, remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt. Puree 30 to 45 seconds, until all ingredients are combined and the walnuts and cheese make the pesto almost creamy in appearance. Add more salt if desired. Serve right away or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Note:  If you enjoy the zesty bite of raw sweet onions, you can make this pesto without sautéing the onions first. Simply add all the ingredients to the food processor.

Recipe and photos for the National Onion Association by Lori Rice.

 

 

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Get ready for the onion experience

The idea of meal kits for many is genius. They offer the convenience we desire, great foods and easy directions for even the novice home cooks. But perhaps they put a bit more of a crimp on the budget than you’d like. What few millennials realize is that they’re learning how to cook with each delivery. If you’re ready to branch out and save a little money, your’e ready for the onion experience.

 GET COOKING

Cut the apron strings and crack open a cook book — or better yet, find an interesting recipe on Pinterest, and cue up to the latest how-to video on YouTube, and get cooking.

We at the National Onion Association have dozens of recipes that involve the ubiquitous onion. With its myriad methods to enhance a recipe, it’s hard to get it wrong — from caramelizing to roasting, get ready for an experience!

UBIQUITOUS ONION

For starters, know that are varying kinds of onions out there, each with recipes tailored to their flavors. Yellow onions are perfect for most recipes; white onions are used chiefly in Mexican dishes and red onions are common to sandwiches and salads.

Try this recipe on for size and see if you can “experience” the joy of creating your own dish, and discovering the different flavors onions can deliver. It may take a bit more in prep, so make it a weekend project!

Three Onion Grilled Flatbread

Each variety of onion has its own flavor, texture, and color whether eaten raw or cooked. There’s no better way to express their delicious differences than by using yellow, white, and red onions in one recipe! This grilled flatbread is topped with a creamy herb dressing. Then onions are layered on, each prepared in a unique way so that every bite is bursting with flavor.

 

The grilled flatbread can be cut into small pieces and served as a starter, or make the servings larger and pair it with a salad for a meal. Plan ahead with this recipe. The onions should marinate for two hours and your flatbread dough will need to rise for an hour.

Serves 4 to 6 as a meal

Ingredients

Marinated Onions

1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Flatbread

½ cup water, heated to 110-115 degrees F

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 – 2 tablespoons water

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

⅓ cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 tablespoon half-and-half

1 teaspoon finally chopped jalapeno, ribs and seeds discarded

1 small red onion, diced

2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion

Chopped cilantro for garnish

 

Preparation

Place all ingredients for the marinated onions in a medium bowl. Stir well to coat the onions and dissolve the sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To start the flatbread, stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water. Let sit until the yeast blooms, about 5 minutes.

Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. With the mixer on low, pour in the yeast. Mix for 30 seconds. It will be dry. Add water as needed, a ½ tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in the center of the bowl in a ball. It should be slightly tacky, but not so sticky that it sticks to your hands. Sprinkle in a little more flour if it becomes too sticky. Let the mixer knead the dough on low to medium speed for 1 minute. Mix in a ½ teaspoon of the salt.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead about 1 minute and form into a smooth ball. Place the ball in a bowl and coat with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Place in a draft-free spot for one hour, or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the sauce and toppings. Place the yogurt, cilantro, chives, mayonnaise, sour cream, half-and-half, and jalapeno in a small food processor or single-serve blender. Puree until all ingredients are combined, and the greens are finally chopped to turn the sauce a light green color. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onion. Cook for 3 minutes, just until it begins to soften and brown. Set aside.

Preheat the grill to 400 degrees F. Brush the grill grate well with olive oil. Punch down the dough and spread or roll into an oval about 14-by-10-inches. This does not need to be exact. A smaller circle will yield a thicker, softer crust. A larger circle will yield a thinner, chewy crust. Place the dough on the grill. Let cook until seared, 2 to 3 minutes. Once seared, flip and grill the other side until the crust is cooked through, about 4 more minutes. Total time will vary by crust thickness and fluctuations in grill temperatures.

Place the crust on a serving platter. Spread with the creamy herb sauce. Drain the marinated onions and scatter over the top of the flatbread. Next, sprinkle with the red onions. Then add the white onion. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Slice and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association.

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Chicken and Shrimp Paella

This paella uses Spanish sofrito, a cooking base made with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic!

Chicken and Shrimp Paella Recipe from the National Onion Association

If you’ve been following along with our exploration of Onions Around the World, you may have already made a batch of Spanish sofrito. If so, this paella recipe comes together quickly. If not, with just a few extra steps you’ll be ready to make this meal.

Paella is cooked on the stovetop, making it ideal for summer when the last thing you want to do is heat up the oven. The dish typically has chicken, sausage, and a variety of seafood. To keep things simple, our version uses chicken breast and jumbo shrimp, but feel free to add other ingredients.

First, we sauté onions, then we add the sofrito base, which is a blend of onions, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Once chicken stock and water are added, the rice simmers in the flavorful liquid until tender. Garnish with peas, parsley, and lemon wedges to complete the meal and also for a pretty presentation!

Chicken and Shrimp Paella Recipe

Chicken and Shrimp Paella

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 large chicken breast (about ¾ pound), chopped into ½-inch cubes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup white or yellow onion, chopped
1 batch sofrito recipe
2 cups Spanish rice, or short or medium grain white rice
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water, plus more if needed
20 jumbo raw shrimp, peeled and cleaned (about ¾ pound)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
½ cup cooked green peas, thawed and warmed if frozen
Chopped parsley for garnish
Lemon wedges for serving

Preparation

Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with oregano and paprika and toss to coat.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until the pieces are no longer pink in the center and any juices run clear. Set aside.

In a separate, large, deep skillet or paella pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, until it begins to soften. Reduce the heat slightly, add the sofrito and stir well. Next add the stock and 1 ½ cups of the water. Stir well.

Stir in the rice. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, until the rice is almost tender. If the liquid is evaporating too quickly, lower the heat and add the additional ½ cup water.

Add the shrimp and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes until opaque and the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Stir in the chicken and salt.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with the peas and parsley. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

 

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association.

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Spanish Sofrito

Spanish Sofrito is a mix of onions, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. Combined, these ingredients are used as a cooking base for many delicious meals!

Spanish Sofrito recipe from the National Onion Association

We have had a lot of fun exploring Onions Around the World this spring and we hope that you’ve been able to join us for the ride. Our last stop takes us to Spain and the aromatic onion cooking base, sofrito.

Spanish sofrito combines onions, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes. It is sauteed in fat such as olive oil or butter. While sofrito becomes like a sauce that would be delicious as a condiment, it is most often used as a starter for Spanish meals such as chicken and rabbit, salted cod with tomatoes, and seafood stews. Like the Puerto Rican Recaito we shared, it is also blended into a filling for empanadas.

We use white onions in our sofrito and while you can substitute two cups of canned, crushed tomatoes, we like to use fresh tomatoes in summer. It is a great way to put garden tomatoes to good use!

Most types of tomatoes work well, and we use standard red beefsteak tomatoes. Just keep in mind that the ripeness and type of tomato you use can influence the cooking time needed to break them down. It also plays a role in the amount of liquid influencing the thickness of the final sofrito. If the sauce seems too thick, this can easily be corrected with a little water or additional olive oil.

Spanish Sofrito

For other ingredients, any type of sweet green pepper can be used, but the simplest and most readily available is a green bell pepper. Herbs and spices such as bay leaf, parsley, and smoked paprika can be added as the sofrito evolves into a final recipe. All of the ingredients are pureed into a rich sauce.

We’ll be using our Spanish sofrito to make a simple Chicken and Shrimp Paella. That recipe is coming soon for an easy stovetop summer meal!

How to make Spanish Sofrito | Recipe at onions-usa.org

Spanish Sofrito

Makes about 1 ¾ cup

Ingredients

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Preparation

Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to brown and soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. The tomatoes should soften and break down. Keep in mind that riper tomatoes make take less time to break down. At this point, the sofrito will look like a thick, chunky sauce.

Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the parsley, if using, and the salt. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer back to the skillet to use as the base for your Spanish recipe!

 

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association.

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Slow Cooker Bolognese

This easy slow cooker bolognese begins with a vegetable-based Italian battuto, chopped white onion, carrot, and celery cooked in butter and flavored with fresh parsley.

Slow Cooker Bolognese from the National Onion Association

Keep things simple in the kitchen and make this Italian-inspired meat sauce! Continuing with our exploration of Onions Around the World, the recipe features the onion cooking base, battuto. White onions have a crisp, pungent flavor that turns pleasantly sweet when cooked making them an ideal addition to this slow cooker bolognese.

All of the delicious ingredients blend into a thick and hearty meat sauce over several hours on low in the slow cooker. Use the sauce to top pasta or spiralized vegetables. It is so thick and rich that you can even use it as a sub sandwich filling or fill pizza dough for a homemade calzone.

Easy and delicious Slow Cooker Bolognese with White Onions from the National Onion Association

Slow Cooker Bolognese

Serves:  4 to 6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large white onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, diced
½ cup diced celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 pound lean ground beef
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation

Melt the butter in a large skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, until the pieces just begin to glisten in the butter. Add carrots and celery and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the garlic and parsley and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a large, 6-quart, slow cooker.

Stir in the ground beef, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, until the beef is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender. If possible, stir occasionally during the cooking process to prevent the thick sauce from gathering and blackening around the sides of the bowl.

Transfer to a bowl to serve over pasta, vegetables, or as a filling for sandwiches.

 

Recipe and images by Lori Rice for the National Onion Association.

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