There are dishes which are so simple, tasty and nutritious that you ask yourself “why didn’t I think about this before?”. This cooked onion appetizer is a perfect example. I watched the NHK Medical Frontiers documentary about superfoods, notably onions. From there, I made a meal with two of the highlighted ingredients – onions and grapefruit, or kabosu – and this recipe provides a few lines dedicated to just the onion.
You can make it using two methods. The first one involves using the oven and baking it, and in this case you’ll want to leave the skin on to prevent the liquid from draining or drying out in the heat. A shorter and simpler path makes use of a frying pan and a lid, and will take only half the time.
This onion appetizer reminds me of the French tomates à la Provençale: you slice the round object in two, then cook it in oil or butter and add a few spices for extra flavor. The fruit (onions and tomatoes are fruits, technically) becomes softer, easier to digest, and acquires a warm and fatty coat. It is important to use a good quality fat, such as French butter, or olive oil, and cook or bake at medium temperatures to remain below the oil’s smoking points.
Onions contain quercetin. This study by the University of Texas highlights that red and yellow onions contain significantly more quercetin than white onions, which would appear to be a less ideal choice from a nutritional standpoint. White onions would contain only trace amounts, about a hundred times less than yellow or red ones. If this is correct, the data point would support the old adage: pick your fruits and vegetables to be colorful when possible.
When onions are fully cooked, they are no longer astringent and spicy to eat. On the contrary, they acquire a sweeter and mild flavor which makes them easier to digest. I would almost eat them like this, as is. This would make this onion appetizer a standalone dish. But they pair so well with other foods, like rice, avocados, tomatoes, natto, that they make a fantastic side dish as well.
Baked or seared onion appetizer
- 1 red onion (use yellow or red onions, higher in quercetin than white ones)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (or butter if searing in a pan)
Method 1: baking the onion
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
- Cut the onion in two, and also slightly trim the bottom edges for the half cuts to stand horizontal. Keep the skin on to retain moisture during the baking process.
- Also cut the inside of the onion in 6-8 slices. Only cut the inner parts while leaving the skin intact for the outside layer to remain whole.
- Add the oil on the top of each half and spread it evenly to cover the horizontal surface.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then serve immediately.
Method 2: searing the onion
- Slice the onion in half, then remove the outer skin layer.
- Place oil or butter in a frying pan and heat on medium level.
- As soon as the butter is melted, add the onion cuts into the pan. Lower heat to slow cooking
- Sear on each side for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, then serve immediately.