Winter cooking can be challenging. But with less to work with, you can focus on what’s available to you. That’s when true creativity comes. You think beyond your usual dinner menus and get inspired by ingredients that might otherwise get overlooked.

At mealtime, it could mean paying attention to one of the most common yet underestimated ingredients of everyday cooking: onions. I mean plain, round storage onions, the ones we rarely think about—until there’s a crisis because they’re not in the house.

Image credit: Tina Rupp

Elizabeth Robins Pennell, an American who wrote about food in 19th- and early-20th-century London, spared no drama when praising the onion’s essential nature. “Banish it from the kitchen, and all pleasure of eating flies with it,” she wrote in an essay called “The Incomparable Onion.” “Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest dainty to hopeless insipidity, and the diner to despair.”

Not often enough, and perhaps that’s because we tend to undervalue anything we have perennial access to, anything dependable and ubiquitous. Winter, with so few fleeting distractions outselling this humble vegetable’s charms, is my annual cue to yield more space to them on the plate.

To continue reading and for recipes like the one below with onion as the star of the show, visit

Visit Epicurious for a sweet and spicy BBQ Onion Steak recipe with honey-mustard sauce.


Onions are both vessel and filling in this pretty herb-and-cheese-stuffed vegetarian main dish. Use a variety of onions — red, white, yellow — for a colorful spread.

For a vegan version, omit the cheese. Makes 6 servings.

MAKE AHEAD: The onions can be hollowed out and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. The stuffed, baked onions can be reheated in a 400-degree oven for 35 minutes; tent loosely with aluminum foil for the first 25 minutes, then remove the foil for the last 10.

  • 6 large onions, weighing about 12 ounces each (see headnote)
  • 5 ounces day-old bread, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 4 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth, half of it heated to a boil
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and then finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh herbs (a combination of parsley, marjoram, thyme, celery leaves and/or oregano)
  • 2 ounces fontina cheese, grated on the medium-size holes of a grater
  • 1 ounce Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated on the small holes of a grater
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut about 1⁄2 inch off the top of each onion and reserve for another use, if desired. Cut a very small slice from the bottom so the onion will stand upright. Use a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out the inside of each onion, leaving a shell that’s about two layers thick. Chop enough of the onion pulp to equal 1 1⁄2 cups, which you’ll need for this recipe. Reserve any excess for another use.

Arrange the bread in a double layer in a shallow dish. Pour the 2 cups of boiling broth over; allow the bread to soak for 10 minutes.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add all but 2 teaspoons of the oil and swirl to coat, then add the chopped onion and salt; cook for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, with a bit of color. Stir in the garlic; cook for 3 minutes, then add the herbs and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Squeeze the bread gently with your hands. It should be moist but not dripping. Working over a medium bowl, tear the bread into small pieces. Scrape the onion mixture into the bowl with the bread, then add the cheeses and pepper.

Mix gently, then spoon the stuffing into each onion cavity, mounding it slightly.

Arrange the onions in a deep baking dish just large enough to hold them, and drizzle the tops with the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Pour the remaining 2 cups of broth in the bottom of the baking dish, and tent the dish with foil.

Bake (middle rack) for 45 minutes, then remove the foil. Baste the tops of the onions with the liquid in the baking dish, and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, until the tops are browned.

Serve warm.

Nutrition per serving: 300 calories, 10 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 490 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar




Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.