Day 20 - Make the Most of Your Onion

Thumbnail photo: food52.com

A big area of focus for me right now is not letting food go to waste in my kitchen.  I have to admit that I've been guilty countless times of tossing out vegetables that were once perfectly good, because I never got around to doing anything with them.

Well, I'm hoping that between being more aware, buying only what I truly need and will use, composting, and making vegetable stock with the veg that doesn't get used in its prime, I'll be able to cut down significantly on my kitchen waste.

Conscious chopping can help the cause too.  I'm a girl who likes her veg to be very neatly and uniformly chopped.  My good friend Becca of The Social Table in Chicago taught me her foolproof method of chopping onions in minimal time and with minimal tears.  I've followed her method religiously for years.  She taught me to chop half the onion at a time, but when we'd get to the bit by the roots and things got a little tricky with the knife, she'd always say "I care more about your fingertips than I do about the bit of onion attached to the root" and tell me to just discard it. 

But lately I've been realizing that there's still plenty of good onion there, and (no offense Becca) by simply cutting around the root, I can salvage most of it.  Extra bits of onion that remain attached to the skin, and the bit that's left on the root, now goes into my compost bin, or into a bowl of veggie scraps I'm saving for stock.

Here's how I do it:

1. Cut the very tip off the onion to create a flat surface for the onion to rest on.

2. Place the cut side down on your cutting board, and cut through the middle of the roots to cut the onion in half.  Leave the root structure in tact on both halves. Peel off the outermost layer of the onion, and place it in your compost bin or veggie scraps bowl.

3. Place the freshly cut side of one half of the onion face down on your cutting board.   With the heel of your non-dominant hand, hold the onion steady on top.  Lay your knife flat, parallel to the cutting board, and make one or two horizontal cuts into the onion.  The heel of your hand will protect you from the blade.

4. Place the tip of your knife close to the root of the onion, pointing towards the root, and make several cuts, about 1 cm apart, perpendicular to the direction of your horizontal cuts in step 3.

5. Chop down through the onion with the whole blade, parallel to the root, in cuts about 1 cm apart, until most of the onion is chopped.

6. When it becomes difficult to chop further, take the remaining bit of onion, and with the tip of your knife, cut around the root section.  Toss the root into your compost bin or veggie bowl.  Chop the salvaged bit of onion.

7.  Repeat with the other half of the onion.

Here's a little photo montage of the above (forgive the cell phone videography, I can't afford to hire a pro yet!):