Thursday, May 19, 2011

What’s in Our Pantries? Onions and Beans!

I’m never without some, and I love them in all their varieties – from shallots (which aren’t technically onions at all) to red onions to spring onions to sweet onions (LOVE Vidalias!), they each bring their own distinctive flavors to all sorts of dishes.  They add flavor to almost anything.  I use them a lot to make roasted potatoes.  I add diced shallots and red wine vinegar to sautéed green beans. 
One of my favorite ways to use onions is caramelizeonionsd.  Caramelizing onions brings out a whole new, mellow natural flavor from them.  I add them to sandwiches, meats (especially pork), homemade pizzas, and pastas.  You can caramelize any kind of onion. 

Caramelized Onions:
Heat up some oil to a medium-high temperature in a skillet or saucepan.  I usually use a few tablespoons of olive oil.  You can use butter, but don’t overheat your pan or it will burn.  You’ll know the oil is hot enough when you start to see it slightly ripple.  Slice your onion in half rings – thinner slices will cook faster.  Add the onions to the hot oil and stir until they are coated.  If you add a bit of salt to season the onions, that will speed up the caramelizing process, too.  Just don’t add too much salt! 

Some people add sugar to their mixture, but I usually don’t.  Keep stirring the onions.  After a minute or two they’ll start to stick to the bottom of the pan and turn darker in color.  Keep stirring and watch them get even darker. If the onions are sticking to the bottom of the pant too much, you can add a little bit of water, broth or even wine to the pan, stirring quickly to “deglaze” the onions.  The water will disappear right way, while loosening the onions from the bottom of the pan.   You pretty much follow these steps until the onions reach your desired taste and texture. 

I found a good website ( that has some great tips for storing and using onions, including:
-- A wet onion is easier to peel than a dry one.
-- If cutting onions ahead of time, pack them in a plastic zipper-lock freezer bag, squeezing all the air out, then enclose in a second plastic zipper-lock freezer bag and refrigerate.  Use cut portions within two days. 
-- When you only need a small portion of an onion, don’t peel the whole onion.  Cut off the size you need and peel it.  The remaining portion will keep longer with the skin on it in the refrigerator.

I always have a variety of beans in the pantry. Whether they are cannellini I heat up to serve with chicken and a salad, or black beans for a tacos, they are great staples to bulk up any meal.
Lately, I’ve been into the grains/bean/veggie composed salad kick…in fact, for Meatless Monday this week at our house, I made two – one for a luncheon, and one for our family dinner.  Feel free to mix up the ingredients I have listed – this is all about what you have and what you like.
Black Bean/Corn/Rice Salad
1 c. cooked riceblackbean
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can white corn, drained
Large handful cilantro, chopped
2 T. ground cumin
1 T. ground coriander
½ T. garlic powder
½ T. onion powder
Juice of two limes
Salt and pepper
Mix together. Let sit for ½ hour and then re-taste to see if you want to add more lime juice or salt.
Garbanzo/Couscous/Artichoke Salad
1 box couscous, prepared
1 can garbanzo, rinsed
1 can artichoke quarters, rinsed
Juice of one lemon
Handful walnuts, toasted
4 oz. feta, crumbled
Mix together

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