“How-To” Cooking – All About Onions

onions

Onions are one of the most popular and widely used ingredients in cooking and with so many varieties available at the supermarket it can be confusing to know which kind to choose. Yellow onions are generally the most commonly used in cooking but knowing what else is available will certainly elevate many dishes. Take note that garlic is actually considered part of the onion family even though it has a very different and distinct flavor.

When buying onions choose ones that have a dry, papery skin and are nice and firm. Avoid onions that have any soft spots or powdery surface mold. Always store onions and shallots at room temperature away from light, a dark pantry is a good place to keep them. Delicate scallions however, should be stored in the refrigerator. Place them standing up in a tall glass filled with 1″ of water and cover them loosely with a plastic bag. Lastly, store onions away from potatoes as they release gases which can hasten sprout growth in potatoes causing them to spoil more quickly.

  • Yellow Onions – Strong flavored and maintain their potency when cooked. Also labeled as “Spanish Onions“. Most common onion used in cooking.
  • White Onions – Pungent and strong much like a yellow onion however, their flavor is less complex. Most commonly used in Mexican or Latin American dishes.
  • Red Onions – Crisp onion with a sweet, peppery flavor. Perfect for use in dishes where raw onion is needed. Most commonly used in salads.
  • Sweet Onions – Sweet, mild flavor. Texture can become stringy when cooked so these are best to use raw. These don’t keep as well as other onions so use them up quickly. Most common varieties are Vidalia, Maui, Bermuda and Walla Walla. 
  • Pearl Onions – Crunchy and small with a sweet, delicate flavor. Most commonly used in soups and for roasting. Peeling these tiny onions can be arduous so it’s recommended to buy them pre-peeled in the frozen aisle.
  • Cipolline – Sweet, Italian onion with a flat top and squat shape. Similar to a pearl onion. Ideal for creaming and roasting. Can be served whole.
  • Shallots – Complex, subtly sweet flavor. When cooked they become very soft and almost melt away. Most commonly used in sauces.
  • Ramps – Eaten raw it has a strong, almost garlic like flavor. When cooked it has a mildly, sweet flavor. The entire onion from top to bottom is edible and is often presented in dishes intact.
  • Scallions – Earthy flavor with a delicate crunch. Used in dishes that involve little to no cooking. Can be used interchangeably with ramps. Most commonly used in Asian cooking.

Fresh Green Beans

green beans.jpg

Fresh green beans are a summer staple in my house. They are quick and easy to make plus they are a lovely side dish to so many meals, especially a nice steak dinner. The great thing about green beans is that are very versatile so you can easily adjust the seasonings to suit your taste. You can swap out the garlic for shallots or even add both! You can replace the olive oil with butter or better yet, brown the butter first for an even nuttier, more complex flavor. Add in slivered toasted almonds or crumble up some crisp bacon into the beans. You can even try experimenting with different spices as well for a unique and flavorful spin. However you choose to prepare them they will be a delicious and healthy accompaniment to almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of fresh green beans, ends removed
  • 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced OR a spoonful of roasted garlic
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and stir often. Sauté until they are glossy and bright green, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the garlic, salt and black pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir continuously while cooking.

Pour the water into the pan and cover. Cook another 2-3 minutes until the beans are bright green and “crisp tender”.

Remove the beans from the heat, add in the red pepper and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Glazed Pork Chops with Roasted Potatoes, Carrots and Onions

Pork Chops_n

Pork chops are perfect for a quick and inexpensive meal for the whole family. I picked up a pack of six boneless pork chops on sale for just under $7!! Coupled with a nice bed of hearty vegetables you end up with a filling meal that comes together quickly since everything is made in one pan. I consider that a win in my house!

I came across this recipe on the “Recipe Tin Eats” blog, you can find the original recipe right here . I made just one minor change to the recipe by increasing the amount of Worcestershire sauce and decreasing the amount of soy sauce called for in the recipe. I love the rich flavor of Worcestershire and prefer it to the salty bite of soy sauce. I also added some carrots and onions into the mix. It is important you that you pre-bake the vegetables, if you start them raw with the pork chops the vegetables will be underdone and hard. If you find that when the pork chops are finished the vegetables are not yet fork tender, remove the pork chops from the pan and set them aside covered on a dish and continue to cook the veggies for a little longer.

Feel free to use either boneless or bone-in chops for this recipe, just be sure to increase or decrease the cooking time as needed. For thinner, boneless chops decrease your cooking time and for thicker bone-in chops increase the cooking time slightly. Pork chops are cooked through at about 160ºF with little to no pink remaining when cut. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbs ketchup
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • tbs brown sugar
  • tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 pork chops, boneless or bone-in
  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1/4 lb baby carrots
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Cube potatoes. Toss potatoes, carrots, and onions with 2 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet or pan. Bake for about 25 minutes.

While the vegetables are baking, make the marinade. In a large resealable bag, combine the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, 1 tbs olive oil, garlic and apple cider vinegar. Add the pork chops and gently squeeze the bag to coat the meat.

Remove the veggies from the oven, stir, and arrange the pork chops on top. Drizzle the pork chops with half of the marinade. Return to oven and bake for about 10 minutes if using boneless chops, a few minutes longer for bone-in.

Remove the tray from the oven, flip the chops, drizzle with remaining marinade and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Once the pork chops are cooked through, place under the broiler for just a minute or two to give them a little browning and caramelization on the tops.

Serve hot drizzled with pan juices and a side of veggies.

**Tip – The pork chops can me marinated a few hours before cooking.**

“How-To” Cooking – Roasting (Vegetables)

Roasting is an excellent way to bring out an extra depth of flavor in most vegetables. The slight crisp to the edges that roasting gives also adds a nice textural component to the vegetable as well. Root vegetables such as potatoes and parsnips are traditional choices for roasting however, other vegetables such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, onions, and peppers are also excellent choices. The best thing about roasting is that it is super easy and requires very little effort.

To roast vegetables, first cut up the vegetables into bite sized chunks. Then toss them in a good olive oil until they are nicely coated and glossy. Season the vegetables liberally with Kosher salt and fresh black pepper and then spread them out on a cookie sheet leaving some space between the vegetables. Roast the vegetables at 425ºF until they pierce easily with a fork and there is some charred bits on the edges. The charred bits are what make the roasted vegetables taste so good therefore, don’t hesitate to roast the vegetables a little longer to get that char even though they might already be tender.

For more information on roasting, click here .

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Grilled Summer Veggies

summerpasta1

Pasta salads are the perfect light, easy, summer meal. They come together quickly, make a nice dinner or side dish, and they are a great way to use up all of the delicious vegetables that are growing in your garden. For this recipe I used a mix of zucchini, red bell peppers, corn on the cob, and green onions but you can substitute any or all of these with whatever favorite vegetables you have on hand. Pasta salads are extremely versatile in that you can add in whatever meat, cheese, dressing, and veggie that you like and it will always turn out delicious.

Because I had a nice amount of basil growing in my yard I decided to make a quick and easy fresh basil pesto . It takes only minutes to pull together and it’s the perfect “sauce” for both the pasta and to season the chicken that I added into the salad. The fresh grilled vegetables are really what amps up this salad to awesome, they impart such a nice, sweet element to the dish. I happen to love fresh mozzarella, preferably from my local Italian deli, but in a pinch I do use pre-packaged “fresh mozzarella” from BJ’s. For this recipe I threw in some of the fresh mozzarella pearls, teeny tiny little balls, from Bel Gioioso. They aren’t as amazing as true fresh mozzarella but in this dish where they are tossed together with pesto, chicken, pasta, and fresh veggies they work just fine.

If you don’t have time to make everything for this dish all at once you easily make much of it in advance. The pesto will keep for 5-7 days in the fridge, the vegetables can be grilled and diced ahead of time as well as the chicken. When you’re ready for dinner just boil the pasta and toss everything together. Super easy!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ thick slices
  • 2 ears of fresh corn on the cob
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into sixths
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (or torn up fresh mozzarella)
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cubed and cooked
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 3/4 cup pesto

Instructions

Heat the grill to medium-high. Toss vegetables in the olive oil with a little bit of salt and pepper. Grill corn, turning periodically, for about 10 minutes or until slightly charred in spots. Grill the pepper and zucchini slices for about 4-6 minutes, turning once. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the cubed chicken and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until slightly browned and cooked through. Towards the end of the cooking, add in 2-3 tbs of the pesto sauce and stir to combine. Set the chicken aside on a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool off the pasta just a bit, you don’t want it steaming hot.

Combine the cooked pasta, chicken, mozzarella balls, green onion, and grilled veggies. Toss gently with the pesto until well combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm, at room temp, or cold.

summerpasta3