January 06, 2018
I was three when my obsession for onions began, or so the story goes. As a little girl my mother tells me I would pick off the crunchy, lemony onions from my family's plates around their table in Chandigarh, where I was born and where my grandparent's home is to this day. It seems I've passed this obsession onto my own two girls. They could brush their teeth and still come back for a slice of spicy, lemony onion. That's how much we love them in this Indian-American household.
It's also where I wanted to start my series of Indian Prep Kitchen posts. Many of you have asked me to give you more guidelines on how I organize my kitchen, my spices, and even my groceries. I hope this post and future ones like it will encourage you to incorporate a few simple practices in your own kitchens so that you'll in this new year of 2018 find yourself cooking even more Indian food at home.
While spices are key when cooking Indian food, as a Punjabi Indian, I wanted to start where my obsession for Indian food began - with onions. They are critical to our cooking. We not only cook with them, but we also eat them raw along with our meal as a salad, or chopped on top of our dal (lentils) for added texture and tanginess. Outside of a few sub cultures in India, the onion is very important to our cuisine.
And, it's why I keep them on hand and prepped in a few specific ways. We tend to favor yellow onions. The white, sweet onions are a bit too sweet for our various curries, which are always slightly tart and tangy. I also pick up a few red onion to have on hand for salads. Then, I go to work peeling them. All of them. These below have been peeled, trimmed, washed and dried. Remember, when prepping fruit and veggies ahead of eating them, it's vital that you dry them of all moisture before putting them into the fridge. If still wet, they will spoil faster.
Remember, only peel and store the amount of onions you'll go through during your week. If you want to store them with their papery outer layer, keep them in a dry spot like a pantry. The key is to keep them whole in the fridge to avoid the funny smell that can come off onions if they are cut and stored in a fridge drawer. I find this technique super handy - I just cannot be bothered to peel onions during my packed weeks - and this simple step makes meal prep that much easier.
Now, onto slicing and dicing. There are four ways I'll typically prep my onions. I'll grind four or so in a food processor. Perfect for curries and adding to my slow cooker. A portion of this ground version will stay in my fridge (it's good for about a week and a half), while the remaining portion I'll dole into a small ice-cube tray and freeze. No need to add any oil or water. I'll pop a cube out into my slow cooker in the morning and I'm usually good to go. Or, I'll leave it in a bowl to defrost in the fridge for dinner that evening.
The other three dices include sliced, diced, and rounds. The sliced is great for salads (with lemon juice, black salt, and red chile powder). The diced is perfect when I need a little crunch in my dal or sprinkled over a dish as I'm about to serve it. And, the rounds, are great for browning. You can leave them as rounds or slice them into half moons.
For the browned onions, add 2-4 tablespoons of oil to a pan, 2 sliced onions, and a dash of salt. Cook about 5 minutes until brown. You can cook them longer (a total of about 30-40 minutes) if you truly want to caramelize them, but I find these browned, crispy onions are perfect additions to curries or a biryani. And, frankly, delicious on sandwiches and veggie burgers.
I always store my chopped ingredients in glass containers in the fridge. My absolute favorite are working glasses. They are essentially drinking glasses with lids. The 14 oz. are a perfect size and stack well.
Hope you enjoyed this post. If you find this site helpful, share the spicy love with your friends and family. Let me know you did, and I'll enter you in a weekly raffle to give away one of my cookbooks and a jar of spice blends. I'll send you the spice and my publisher, Agate Publishing, will be sending the book. But, you have to 'Like' our pages on Facebook! Let me know you shared and I'll add your name to our give away (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Happy prepping, happy cooking!