Onions are one of the most versatile staples of our pantry. They make for a perfect base and a perfect condiment, either cooked or raw. For now we will be dealing with the raw onion. I’m sure it happens to everyone; you eat a dish, bite into some raw onion and feel its pungency linger throughout the entire day. There are two tricks I like to use to diminish its pungency but without giving up any of the flavor.
Let’s start with a Montreal classic: bagels and lox. I personally have an affinity for St-Viateur’s all dressed bagels. At home I serve it up with cream cheese (and it has to be Liberté …or your local creamiest of the cream cheeses is a must), lox overflowing the sides of the bagel, a mount full of capers, coarsely ground pepper, a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil (take out your best-est olive oil here) and thinly sliced red onion.
To tame the pungency of the red onion as a condiment, you’ll want to start by thinly slicing it. In a bowl cover it with salt; pour cold water over the onions to cover and mix until the salt is dissolved. Add a few cubes of ice and let the mixture sit for at least 20 minutes. Strain and pat dry the onions. Drop a few over the lox to complete this all dressed classic Montreal bagel. These onions are also great for salads, sandwiches, burgers…
Another way to soften the blow of post onion bad breath is to marinade the onion in some sort of acid like lemon or vinegar. This is the base for my famous guacamole. Yes, I said it, famous! You can ask any of my friends and family. The onion taming technique is described below in the recipe and makes a great base for other dishes like gazpacho.
Kristel’s Kitchen Guacamole
- Two ripe avocados
- One small onion
- Two limes – juiced
- One garlic clove – pressed
- One tomato – seeded and chopped into a small dice
- Small bunch of cilantro – chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon Mexican spice blend – any generic grocery store mix works here, or make your own by combining equal parts of cumin, dried oregano, chili powder and paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Splash of hot sauce – or as much as you or your guests can handle
Finely chop the onion. In a mixing bowl add the onion, the juice of one lime and a few pinches of salt. Mix it all together until the salt has dissolved and let sit for 20 minutes. At this point you can start mixing your guacamole. Scoop out the ripe avocado into the mixing bowl and using a fork mash it all up. Using a garlic press, crush one clove. Slice in half one tomato and using your thumb remove the seeds. Chop the tomato and add to the mixing bowl. I enjoy experimenting with different varieties of tomatoes but grape tomatoes give just the right amount of sweetness and they don’t need to be seeded. Gently mix all ingredients; careful, the tomatoes are delicate.
Mix in the Mexican spice blend and the hot sauce. I like playing around with different types of hot sauces and I usually use two kinds: a basic one to give a base of spice and one that adds a different flavor dimension, for example smokiness (think chipotle). This is the perfect opportunity to play around and wow your guests. If you have any fresh hot peppers on hand you can also add those into the mix (remember to use your latex gloves). Make sure to taste the guacamole and adjust the seasoning with pepper, salt, spice and perhaps even add more lime juice. Grab your favorite chips and dig in!