Around The Table: Lovely Lilies
Looking through the kitchen window out toward the back yard, I watch the tall, green leaves from the onions and daffodils moving gently in the early morning light. While not as showy as some of their cousins, I enjoy seeing the flowers in the garden, as much as I like flavoring our meals with some of their bulbs.
Amaryllidaceae is a group of plants we often refer to as the lily family. Because they are bulbs, they can lie dormant during winter and during drought until conditions are right for them to raise their linear leaves to the sun again. Daffodils, snowdrops, jonquils, and amaryllis are grown for their showy flowers. Supposedly, daffodils will also repel moles. In hopes that this is true, and because they remind me of my mother’s mother, I have planted daffodils around the perimeter of our back yard and enjoy their cheery yellow heads bobbing in the spring breezes.
Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks are in the same family. They are actually in the subfamily allioideae. The flavors their bulbs provide to season our entrees can range from delicate to quite pungent. They are also featured in home remedies (which can be handy to have on hand during this extended season of viruses). From soups to cough syrups to onion poultice to “Russian Penicillin,” these bulbs provide flavor to dulled taste buds and, possibly a boost to the immune system. Some even tout that cutting an onion in half and placing it by the bedside will absorb the offending virus or bacteria making a person ill.
The Romans, the Welsh, the Greeks, and the book of Numbers in the Bible refer to onions, garlic, and leeks. I, myself, find it hard to think of many current recipes that do not incorporate onions or garlic in the ingredients. Our favorite culinary use is to enhance our freshly grilled hamburgers with carmelized yellow onions. We add chopped garlic to the water as the spaghetti boils to lightly flavor the pasta. Potato and leek soup is a light and tasty spring meal or first course. My mother’s liver and onions is a family favorite. Pot roast simply wouldn’t be the same without simmering in the onions and garlic among the potatoes and carrots. Powdered garlic and powdered onion get mixed into marinades and salad dressings and gravies. A special family member likes to roast garlic and spread it on toast.
Onions, garlic, and leeks are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, containing folate, B1 (thiamin), B6, manganese, some calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, among other vitamins and nutrients. The darker the onion, the more pungent the flavor. Leeks and chives generally have a lighter flavor. A special flavonoid called quercetin is found in onions, apples, tomatoes, capers, dill, cilantro, and a few other vegetables.
Being the unfortunate recipients of an extremely resilient virus, our doctor suggested we try some home remedies in addition to Western medicines. So, here are some of the concoctions we have savored this week:
Homemade Cough Syrup
Supplies: Onions (any type), local honey, glass jar with tight lid
Directions: Slice one to two onions. In a glass jar, layer onion slice, then honey. Repeat until jar is filled with onion slices layered with honey. Let sit in refrigerator until needed. The juices from the onion will infuse the honey. Take a spoonful of syrup when needed for cough.
Supplies: 1 peeled grapefruit, 1 peeled orange, 1/2 chopped onion (any kind), 3-5 cloves crushed garlic, 1 – 2 Tablespoons fresh sliced or chopped ginger, dash or two of cayenne pepper, 1 – 2 Tablespoons filtered water, honey to cover the mixture, a glass jar with tight lid
Directions: Peel and chop the fruit, onion, and garlic. Put in a blender with water and honey and mix well. Add cayenne pepper. It was recommended to me that we drink (in tablespoons throughout the day) 1 cup for adults or 1/2 cup for children. (The flavor of the onion selected will significantly add to the pungency of this mixture, so choose according to your family’s taste.) The next time I make this, I plan to add turmeric for it’s anti-inflammatory properties and to use a yellow onion for its milder flavor, instead of the red onion that my dear husband found objectionable.
Baked Chicken Fingers
Supplies: 1 pound of chicken breasts cut into strips, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons oregano or basil or cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic, 1/2 teaspoon powdered onion, dash of cayenne pepper, 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil, parchment paper on cookie sheet or cookie rack with aluminum foil under it.
Directions: Mix all the seasonings in a small bowl. Coat the chicken strips with olive oil, then dredge each one through the seasonings and place on the parchment paper on a cookie sheet or on the cookie rack with some foil under it to catch the drippings. Bake in oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Broil a few minutes longer if not crisp enough to your taste. Enjoy hot or cold.
Potato Leek Soup
Supplies: 3 large potatoes (any kind will do – my family prefers Golden Potatoes), 1/2 cup sliced leek, 1/2 -1 cup rice milk or chicken broth, sea salt and pepper to taste, 1 – 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 2 – 3 cloves crushed garlic, water
Directions: Scrub potatoes and leek. Boil or bake potatoes as usual. (This is a good recipe to use up left-over cooked potatoes.) Put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Slice the white part of the leek and the crushed, and sauté lightly in the skillet. Chop up the cooked potatoes and add to the skillet. Cover, to catch the moisture as the flavors infuse with each other. Add the rice milk or chicken broth (or other milk, as you prefer) and stir well, mashing the potato to mix/blend well. Add salt and other seasonings to taste. (I enjoy adding a dash of turmeric or file, but you may prefer cayenne or black pepper.) Simmer approximately 20 – 30 minutes. Puree in blender for smoother texture, if desired. Enjoy hot.
Best of health to you all!
This article is not meant to diagnose nor recommend treatments for allergies or illnesses. As always, check with your health care provider to be sure that you are eating foods that are beneficial to you and your family, especially when there are certain dietary needs in your family.
Charl enjoys allergy-free cooking, raising an herb garden, reading good books, and sketching nature. She and her family have taken advantage of the many opportunities to explore the parks, wildlife, and bookstores in the Tyler area for the past 15+ years that they have lived here.