Alliums deliver a distinctively bitter bite, to the point that researchers have speculated that their organosulfides evolved to repel pests and grazing animals. The word “allium” can even be traced to a Greek word meaning “to avoid.”
Fortunately for our health, our tastebuds have evolved to appreciate them — perhaps because our cooking traditions are full of ways to make alliums more palatable. Put them to the best use with these kitchen tricks.
- Slice bulbs along their long axis, root to tip, to lessen the bite of raw onions. Longitudinal cuts do less damage to the cell walls, which releases fewer sulfur compounds.
- Rinse chopped raw onions under running water to wash away some of the sulfur compounds — this reduces the organosulfides. If a milder onion taste makes a dish more palatable, some is better than none.
- Sauté onions to help break down the vegetables’ harsher compounds and produce a milder flavor. Again, you won’t get quite as many organosulfides, but you’ll still benefit from many of the nutrients, including fiber.
- Cook onions for up to an hour or so and they’ll caramelize, creating a sweet, umami-infused flavor.
- Let cut garlic sit for up to 10 minutes before cooking to increase its flavor and release its allicin. Dial it down by adding it right to the pan, or by chopping cloves in thin slices. Fewer cuts mean less allicin is released.
- Rub a halved clove of garlic around the inside of a salad bowl or on a slice of freshly toasted sandwich bread when you want just a hint of the flavor.
- Add garlic to pans on low to medium heat and take care not to burn it, which makes it bitter.
- Roast garlic to deactivate alliinase and bring out a sweet mellowness. “You’ll often see an entire head of roasted garlic on my plate,” says Wahls. “Just pop it in the oven at whatever temperature you are baking other dishes.”
This was excerpted from “All About Alliums” which was published in the October 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.