Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Many Layers of Onions

I was considering making a mean crack about the bloated, ornamental, exaggerated and patently ridiculous cuisine I saw on Pretentious Buzz’s “Luxury” challenge.  However, as an enthusiastic newly practicing Buddhist, it would be bad for my karma. The Lawyer recommended I seek a path of enlightenment for my raging self. So I’ll leave it alone.

Luckily this week we are back to normal with our guest post spotlight. All thanks and praise goes to the fabulous Marisa from Cook's Book. I was fortunate to cross her blogs path a few months ago and have been enjoying following her kitchen adventures. Marisa is not only a talented cook but also is quite a gifted writer.

Please check out Cook's Book you will find a new super cool blog to follow.


Guest Post Spotlight Thursday

The Many Layers of Onions

Dearest Onion,

Many times I’ve cried over you, the most painful of tears. And still, after blinking away the hurt from my red and irritated eyes, I can never escape you; the pungency of your kiss sits foully on my tongue, your astringent scent lingering endlessly on my hands for days. In spite of it all, I find my love for you to be undying.

The obnoxious characteristics displayed in the rawest state of your demeanor are only natural; you were simply born this way. It seems that many are turned off by your presence, going so far as to request that you not show up at meals and crinkling their noses when you do. Perhaps you do come on too strong; maybe it is your cologne or the fierce intensity of your personality. But they don’t know you like I know you, Onion.

I know that beneath your many layers, you are really very sweet; you just need to warm up. Others who have taken the time to get to understand you realize that any meal is just not the same without you. Patiently caramelized in the natural sugars of your core or even sliced raw, you have such versatile qualities and flavor. Onion, you are much more than just a ferocious ball of tear gas. You are the aromatic base of all that tastes good in the world.

Love and onion breath kisses,


I am a firm believer that if a savory dish tastes good, it’s probably because it’s got onions in it somewhere. Ok, so maybe the love letter was a little exaggerative and extreme, but I really do adore them. Onions are a kitchen staple; from the common bulbous yellow variety to its flavorful cousins including shallots, leeks, and garlic, they serve as the very center from which all dishes can be built upon.

In classic French cooking, the mirepoix, made up of carrots, celery, and 50% onion, is the basis of all bases: stocks, soups, and sauces—they all start with this onion-dominant combination. There are many other similar flavor foundations used in different cuisines such as soffritto in Italian and sofrito in Spanish. All around the world, onions are where culinary masterpieces begin.

Food love and onion appreciation practically go hand in hand. Curious to find out how many onion lovers there would be versus onion haters, last week I posted a highly unscientific poll.

On Foodbuzz asking, “love em’ or leave em?” My response was 100% love em’! Those who left comments elaborated on why they value onions, all agreeing that the smelly layered vegetable provides great balance to dishes and incorporates flavor.

Some of those who participated in the poll admitted that while they still loved onions, they preferred to eat them cooked rather than raw. Tanantha from I Just Love My Apron said, “Cooked onion is sweet but when it’s raw, the pungent smell and flavor kill me.” Onions can definitely provide an overbearingly powerful kick to the senses. Others just aren’t into the crunchy, juicy consistency that raw onions have going on. Raven from Raven from RavieNomNoms Blog commented, “There is something about the texture of raw onion that just doesn’t suit me…but cooked in dishes, onions are fabulous!”

To avoid tears when cutting into an onion, here’s a tip: use a good quality sharp knife. A sharp blade won’t damage as many of the onion’s cells which will help reduce the amount of tear-educing vapors emitted. As far as getting the smell off of your skin, rub hands over a stainless steel surface like your sink faucet. I have also found that washing hands with toothpaste works!

It comes as no surprise that onions got nothing but love in a foodie forum, but onion hate is alive and real. There are people (you probably know at least one), who consider any food flecked with the slightest sliver or dice of visible onion to be “ruined.” The smell and taste are just repulsive to them. There are even Facebook groups devoted to their passionate despise: Onions Haters Unite and The Official Onion Haters Club. The comments are actually pretty funny.

Of course there will always be those who are adamant about their distaste for onions, but there are others that just might be able to be convinced otherwise. My boyfriend, once grossed out by the “slimy” texture of cooked onions and the tear-jerking smell of raw, fell for onions after some tasty persuasion led him to realize that the difference between a good and great dish can often be credited to the onions he so loathed. Now he actually relishes in recipes where onions are the star ingredient, like this caramelized onion flatbread with goat cheese, prosciutto, and balsamic reduction:

After slowly caramelizing for almost two hours, sweet onions mixed with fresh thyme are the topping for an incredibly simple homemade bread dough. When still warm from the oven, goat cheese is crumbled over the top of the flatbread to melt slightly, and is then hidden beneath a thinly sliced layer of prosciutto. The irresistible finishing touch is a fruity drizzle of balsamic reduction. This flatbread is the perfect snack for an onion lover and possibly a starting point for swaying those who feel otherwise. You might have to fight through a few tears, but trust me, it’s worth it!

Thank you, Lazaro! I am so excited to be a part of Guest Post Spotlight Thursday and appreciate you inviting me over for the day.

Caramelized Onion Flat Bread with Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, and Balsamic Reduction:

Yield: 1 half sheet pan

Dough (from the Tapas Cookbook, by Love Food):

- 2 2/3 cups white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 envelope active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for oiling
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 1 cup warm water


- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 large yellow or sweet onions
- Thyme leaves stripped from 3-5 sprigs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Goat cheese, crumbled for sprinkling
- 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into squares
- ½ balsamic vinegar, simmered to ¼ cup reduction

• In a large sauce pot, heat up ¼ cup olive oil and add onions. Over medium-low heat, cook for 1 hr 15 minutes-1 hr 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized and golden. When the onions are just about done, mix in thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.

• Preheat oven to 450 degrees. To make the bread dough, stir the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar together in a bowl, making a well in the center. Add the olive oil and wine to the water; the pour ¼ cup of the liquid into the well. Gradually mix in the flour from the sides, adding remaining liquid if necessary, until a soft dough forms.

• Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball. Wash the bowl and rub the inside with olive oil. Return dough to the bowl and roll it around until lightly coated in oil. Cover tightly with plastic and let stand in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.

• Heavily flour a half sheet pan. Roll the dough out and transfer it to the sheet pan, rolling the edges to form a thin rim. Prick the base all over with a fork. Spread the topping evenly over the dough. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the rim is golden brown.

• Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. While the dough is still warm, add goat cheese crumbles; layer prosciutto slices over the goat cheese. Drizzle balsamic reduction on top of bread. Slice and serve.

For more good stuff click on over and say hello to Marisa at Cook's Book.


  1. Ahh I remember seeing the onion poll! My son HATES onions. He can find one in any dish no matter how small I mince it. This is a fab guest post, Lazaro! I am certainly heading over to read more. I love this recipe. I'll see how it goes with the lil man.

  2. Hahaha! U're funny, Lazaro!

    Marisa, thks for this wonderful post! I'm in my tears already.........

  3. Thanks Lazaro for having Marisa on board...beautiful post! I am an onion lover. I add onions to almost every soup and sauce. It give a beautiful sweetness to dishes. Love your flatbread pizza to me. Heading over to Marisa's blog now.

  4. OMG that was brilliant. The love letter was a magnificent segway into this luscious post. I AM AN ONION LOVER TO THE HILT and do you know that I can chop onions without crying? It is weird! Carmelized onion? THE BEST! MANY THANKS! Anita

  5. Ahh here is one that is a killer for me literally cant eat these things as I am allergic, but if I could this is gorgeous looking, its make me wonder what the taste would be like and the smell has to be awesome I usually never even stop to comment on onion posts but this certainly will stop everyone to view gorgeous just lovely... you know I have to try this with all garlic (not allergic to that) will be a huge hit for my family and me! nice job Marisa

  6. hahaha The letter to the onion cracks me up. LOVE IT!

  7. Marisa I love the onion letter and appreciation. I DO know one food blogger who detests onions. Craziness. This dish looks so fantastic. I can't believe you carmalized the onions for two hours - wow!

  8. I'm an onion lover. Were I a poet, I would write an ode to the onion. Alas, I'm not so I'm moving on over to check out the "luxury challenge". I think I'll be back to onion flatbread, however!!

    Some of my best friends are Buddhists (namely my Thai friends who supply me with the most delicious meals ever). Welcome to the group.


  9. Lazaro... another win on the guest post! We can talk about pretentious buzz later :)

    I LOVE onions!!! A staple my kitchen is never without. Never.

    Marisa... fantastic flat bread. My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures. The flavors are great!

  10. I am more of a garlic girl myself, but then, after falling for Edward the vampire I moved to shallots. hahaha!

    Thanks for sharing, Lazaro and Maria, it made a lovely reading.



  11. Just heavenly! That flatbread recipe is mouthwatering. I must remember to not hurry the carmelization process- it is so worth it to do it slowly. Thanks for another awesome post. I love reading all these new blogsites. And good for you for pursuing your enlightened self!

  12. Ha Love it! I used to despise onions.. like I would pick them off of anything, but they're growing on me more and more.. I cook with them all the time but I still occasionly omit them (especially red onions they're just way too strong) I love your letter thouhg :) and that flatbread looks fabbbulous!

    Lazaro- karma shmarma ;)

  13. Hey great post Marisa! I enjoyed both the humor and the truth that was mentioned about the onion in this post. I am not an onion lover, nor an onion hater. I can do without it, but I also agree that, " the difference between a good and great dish can often be credited to the onions." I definitely enjoy them cooked, much more than raw though. And I absolutely hate cutting onions. I think I would rather wash the dishes than being designated the onion cutter job.

    Your flat bread looks delicious and healthy. The onions definitely do stand out as one of the stars of the dish. Great recipe and guest post!

    Thank you again Lazaro for another great guest poster!

  14. I loved this post, what a great theme! I literally can't get enough onion, raw or cooked (really...I'm the girl who always orders "extra, extra onion" on her turkey sub, lol). Caramelized onions are bliss for me, and they look fantastic on this flat bread!

  15. Ahh..I now get it. The newly practitioner...:) Not all of them are bad, ain't they? Some put a lot of effort doing it.

    Marisa, while reading it, I thought about your poll. Then when I kept reading and saw my name I was like "oh.ha" Great poll, tho. Thanks for the mention :D You probably know how I feel about onions. I'm not going into that. The caramelized onions are sweet and smokey. I love it. You add prosciutto and balsamic on a warm flat bread...hmm.. YUM! I can imagine the flavor and smell from your dish. Great guest post!

  16. Lazaro, I'm happy to hear you are seeking the path to enlightenment ;)
    I love Marissa's blog, she's one of my frequent reads.
    I don't think my younger kids would eat this tart and frankly, I don't care! This is sooooo on my "things I can't wait 5 more minutes to eat" list. ;)

  17. Marissa,
    I can completely relate. I wrote a sonnet about a garlic once, last year.
    This tart looks deadly - and why not? It has ONIONS in it!

  18. Aw, Onions! I love them. I love cooking with onions, they give my meals such balance. The only onions I like to eat raw are the sweet vidalias, red onion. Preferably on my sandwiches or wraps. The spanish onions I prefer cooked. Gotta love the scallions as well. Your flat bread looks amazing.

  19. Thanks for all of the amazing comments everyone! I had so much fun writing this post and I'm happy that you all enjoyed it!

  20. H Marisa - I am tne only onion lover in my house *sigh* it's an uphill battle all the way, but, I must admit, the smell of raw onions, left a while on the counter, especially on a warm day, turns even my onion loving stomach :P Fresh, thinly sliced raw onions though, are perfectly fine by me!

    Caramelised onions are one of the most beautiful things to ever issue from a kitchen and I think your oniony flatbread is a thing of beauty!!

    Thanks Lazaro for showcasing Marisa's undeniable skill with both the pen and the knife :)

  21. Marisa, what a great guest post...I love onions both raw and cooked, and really love this recipe. I agree with Denise regarding caramelized onions though, they the hight of perfect foods :)
    Lazaro, you always have the best here...Thanks to you both :)

  22. 2 hours of onions must make them unbelievably delicious. great guest post, Marisa.

    I feel you, Lazaro! I have trouble watching Top Chef because I can't bear watching people get shot down so viciously... I just don't get Foodbuzz at all... don't get how it works or how you browse it... far too complicated. I like the simple food-porn sites like tastespotting.

    In the end, you generate enough good will to keep your Karma straight, Lazaro... a little rant is good for balance!

  23. Marisa, your flat bread is absolutely perfect! I printed up the recipe immediately! Thank you so much and what a funny post.

    I had a girlfriend that just loathed onions, said they look like dirty toenails (freak!) She would come to my house and ask if what I was serving had onions in it. Naturally, I said no. Naturally, I diced them up super fine, onions cannot be omitted from my spaghetti sauce. She never knew she was eating the DREADED ONION! bwahahahaaaa!

  24. Oh Lazaro, you and your newly Buddhist self never fail to make me smile. I hope you find the zen within you :P

    What a fun guest post! I love the way Marisa funny. And I also love the almighty onion. This recipe sounds fantastic.

  25. You made me laugh.
    Great one.
    Wishing you a nice weekend ♥

  26. Great post! I too am an onion lover. When I was in high school, I actually wrote a love poem for French onion soup... seriously. That flatbread looks amazing!! Caramelized onions are aaaamazing, haha.

  27. Love this! I am an onion lover and can only say bring it on! What a great read.

  28. Thanks Lazaro and Marisa, this is probably my most favorite way to enjoy onions and I am a big fan of everything except the tears:)

  29. Lazaro, I love this entry and your guest post on ONIONS! That's a staple in my pantry. :-))
    We love onions. Gotta try the flatbread with that gorgeous looking topping!
    Thanks, Marisa and Lazaro!

  30. Fun guest post, Lazaro. And thanks, Marisa. I must confess to being a raw onion hater but a cooked onion lover. If raw is called for, I use shallots or scallions. I asked once about tears and slicing onions and got so many answers I couldn't begin to try them all. A sharp knife seems to help.


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