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by Buck Reed

Onions, A Layer of Flavors

All over the world, almost every cuisine is defined not only by the types of food they eat, but how they prepare them. Of the many different ingredients used throughout the world, the one that seems to find its way to everyone’s table is the onion.

Although essential in cooking, sometimes onions get a bad rap. As far as bad breath that is caused by onions, well, that is temporary; and, let’s face it, if you are not willing to kiss someone with onion breath, did you ever really love them in the first place? As a chef, and not a relationship specialist, I say you can actually find room in your life for onions and the stinky breath they bring to the people you love. Hopefully, only one will fade with time. And, like most relationships, onions can bring tears to your eyes, but can also be avoided.

Onions pack a punch of flavor, as well as a lot of nutritional value, coupled with a low calorie content. They provide potassium and vitamin C, as well as being an antioxidant and antibacterial.

Although there are literally hundreds of onions used in cooking today, here is a quick guide to six common onions found in every grocery store and how to use them.

White Onions

High in water content, these onions are mild in flavor and are good raw in salads, salsas, wraps, and sandwiches. To add another dimension to them, try pickling them.

Yellow Onions

Yellow onions (also known as cooking or Spanish onions) have a pungent flavor that are not good raw but are best when cooked into soups or stews, and really shine when they are caramelized.

Shallots

A staple of French cuisine, these small, elongated onions have a unique, mild flavor that is good raw as well as chopped and cooked in a saute and stir fry. Caramelized shallots can also add a unique flavor to your dish.

Red Onion

This purple fleshed onion is pretty and works best raw in sandwiches, wraps, and burgers. They can also be used in quick cooking methods.

Green Onions

Green onions (also known as scallions) come in two parts: the long green stem that is chopped and eaten raw and the white bulbous part that should be cooked. For a real treat, try grilling these onions whole and serving as a side dish.

Sweet Onions

A sweet onion is a variety of onion that is not pungent and actually tastes sweet. There are several types, but Vidalia is the most popular. These are very mild onions in flavor and are best eaten raw.

You may find that most recipes don’t specify what type of onion they call for in the recipe. While using any onion in your recipe won’t necessarily ruin your dish, using the best onion for the recipe your cooking will definitely make your food taste better. Purchasing and using the best onion for the specific type of dish you are preparing is a great way to step up your culinary game.