Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Column Archive |  On Twitter: J Huget and MisFits  |  Fitness & Nutrition News  |  RSS Feeds RSS Feed

Jennifer & Julia

One of the easiest ways I know of to add Vitamin C, fiber and a bunch of other healthful nutrients to my family's diet is to use onions in just about every dinner I cook. The pungent bulbs, members of the allium family, provide a dose of fiber, an even bigger dose of Vitamin C (one cup contains 20 percent of the daily value), plus Vitamin B6, folate, potassium, manganese and chromium, which helps your cells respond properly to insulin.

Onions are thought -- though not conclusively proven -- to help guard against many forms of cancer, reduce risk of heart disease and fight inflammation in the body. All for just 64 calories a cup.

So we soften or brown them in olive oil to form the base of sauces, add a slice of raw Vidalia to a sandwich and chop a handful or so into every salad. Not just for the nutrition; they just taste great!

Onions figure large in the French cuisine described in Julia Child's landmark "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," the nutritional aspects of which I write about in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column. One look at the book's technique for dicing an onion, though, convinced me that my sloppy chopping wouldn't pass muster.

In the spirit of Julie Powell, whose experiment in working her way through Child's cookbook in a year (and documenting her progress in a blog) is chronicled in the movie Julie & Julia, opening on Friday, I decided to try preparing a diced onion Julia Child's way. (Lesson learned: To get a nice dice, start with a sharp knife.)

The technique's pretty simple: Cut the onion (or shallot) in half, through the root. Lay one half cut-side down, with the root end on your left. Cut slices perpendicular to the root, slicing close to the root but not through the root. Then cut horizontal slices, your blade parallel to the cutting board, again stopping just short of the root. Finally, turn your blade perpendicular to the board and make downward cuts to create a dice.

Why bother learning to dice an onion? Or, for that matter, to braise a meat or make mayonnaise? From a cook's point of view, dicing an onion properly allows it to cook uniformly and to look pretty on the plate.

From a nutrition-conscious point of view, learning to cook things right can enhance our overall enjoyment of food. Taking time to relish the careful preparation of food shifts some of our pleasure away from the mere shoving of food into our mouths and help us savor what we eat all the more, in appreciation of the work that went into the meal. It's the opposite effect of sticking your snout into a bag of chips and inhaling.

As Julia Child would say, bon appetit!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Truth about Blue M&Ms
Next: Kids Should Get Moving -- But With Supervision


Great post here. I hadn't realised onions had that much vitamin C.

And I've got a theory I just thought of as I read the french way of chopping an onion. I suspect doing it that way leads to fewer tears.

I hope so anyway, I just tear up every time I get cutting a brown onion. Even red onions affect me, but not quite as much.

Posted by: jeebers | August 4, 2009 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear it! I had no idea. My entire family loves onions- I once found my then-2 year old sitting on the floor eating one raw like an apple (it was peeled- I left it on the counter to tend to something else while making dinner).

My eyes do swell when I chop them- if I need a really small dice I usually use frozen ones that are pre-chopped.

Posted by: floof | August 6, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Dicing onions can be speeded up - and reduce the tears - by eliminating the (dangerous) horizontal cuts - the ones that are parallel to the cutting board, and towards your left hand. These cuts are not necessary. The layers of the onion provide the horizontal separation naturally. Just make the vertical length cuts, towards the root, and then the vertical cross cuts, from side to side of the onion. You get sliced half onion sections, which readily crumble, when stirred, into dice by virtue of the layers of the onion. Try it out and you'll see.
cheers, peter;

Posted by: petweis | August 7, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tip, petweis! I found those horizontal cuts very challenging, but I thought I just had lousy knife skills. I tried it your way, and you're right! Cheers to you, too.

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | August 11, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company