Peak Season: March through September. Scallions and chives are in season March through August.
Most of the time onions are not the focus of a dish; they’re included to enhance the other flavors in the dish. But after enjoying a steaming bowl of French onion soup, it’s easy to see that onions can also take center stage. The vitality of onions goes beyond their flavor. Egyptians worshipped the bulbous globes as a sign of eternity, and while onions may not help us live forever, they might help add a few years to our lives. According to recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who eat lots of onions and garlic are less likely to develop major cancers.
Onions are both rich in flavor and high in antioxidants, such as quercetin (linked to lowering blood pressure), flavonols (that bolster cellular antioxidant activity) and diallyl sulfide (a compound that may promote heart health and healthy immunity). Onions also provide some vitamin C and the soluble fiber inulin.
Choose onions that are firm and heavy with no cuts, bruises or sprouting. The skin should be shiny and tightly closed around the neck. An unpeeled onion should smell mild, as strong odors could indicate spoilage.
• Store onions in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated place. (Light can cause the onions to become bitter.)
• Onions absorb moisture easily, so avoid storing them in damp places.
• Do not store whole onions in the refrigerator or in plastic bags—lack of air circulation will cause them to spoil, as will storing them near potatoes, which give off moisture and gas that can cause onions to spoil quickly.
• Scallions and chives have a higher water content, bruise more easily and have a shorter shelf life—store them in the refrigerator.
According to 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz, New York City was called the Big Onion before it was named the Big Apple, because you could peel off layer after layer without reaching the core.
Baking pieces of chicken is one of the easiest ways to put a meal on the table for your family. This mustard-glazed chicken is roasted on a bed of sliced onions, leeks and garlic that you can serve alongside it.
Get the Recipe: Baked Chicken with Onions
& Leeks »
Caramelized onion and golden raisins add sweet balance to shrimp in this easy bruschetta. It can be assembled in just a few minutes if you make the onion spread ahead of time. For a vegetarian option, serve topped with crumbled feta.
Get the Recipe: Caramelized Onion & Shrimp Bruschetta »
A semi-firm cheese that's nonetheless quite creamy, fontina melts into pure heaven. Combined with caramelized onions, fontina becomes a nutty, gooey, irresistible filling for chicken breasts.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Stuffed with Golden
& Fontina »
A holiday staple in many households, creamed onions are usually bathed in a rich white sauce made with heavy cream. In this version, we roast the onions for an added layer of flavor and lighten up the sauce with low-fat milk. The result is a luxuriously silky sauce with a sweet roasted onion flavor for far fewer calories and less fat. We like the smaller size of pearl onions, but boiling onions also work well.
Get the Recipe: Creamed Onions »
The arrival of the first sweet onions of the season is an event to be celebrated, and this dish does just that. The onions are slow-cooked in the oven—which brings out even more sweetness—and then combined with both orange zest and juice, plus some balsamic vinegar to balance the flavors. Jumbo shrimp are added here, but sweet scallops would be delicious as well.
Get the Recipe: Jumbo Prawns & Balsamic-Orange Onions »
Bosc pears are strong-flavored and hold their shape when cooked, making them well suited for this savory side dish. It's a terrific accompaniment for a glazed ham or grilled sausage or most any roasted meat or poultry.
Get the Recipe: Pear & Red Onion Gratin »
French onion soup is a favorite but it usually isn't substantial enough to make a complete meal. We've solved this problem by adding fiber-rich chickpeas to a broth flavored with sherry and three kinds of onions. Of course, we didn't forget the gooey topping, we've just made it a little lighter and a lot easier to prepare at home—simply top toasted whole-wheat bread with cheese and pour the soup on to melt it.
Get the Recipe: Quick French Onion Soup »
The technique for this pancake is similar to that for a Dutch baby or German pancake, but the savory onion and goat cheese combination is a surprise for those who think of pancakes as breakfast food only. Serve with a mixed green salad for a light supper or as a side dish with grilled or roasted meat.
Get the Recipe: Red Onion & Goat Cheese Pancake »
In our humble opinion, steak is best topped with sweet caramelized onions and salty Gorgonzola cheese. We recommend seeking out good-quality Gorgonzola for the best flavor, but any will work. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed carrots.
Get the Recipe: Seared Steaks with
Onions & Gorgonzola »
Any type of onion will work for this chile-and-pomegranate-infused jam. Spread crostini with goat cheese and top with the spicy-sweet jam for a quick appetizer or tuck some into a steak taco. If you're a fan of spicy foods, use the full amount of ancho chiles.
Get the Recipe: Spicy Onion Jam »