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April 19, 2009

Onions (Recipe: salsa and shrimp stuffed avocado) {gluten-free}

Adapted from the archives, with new photos, recipe and links.

Salsa and shrimp stuffed avocado, from The Perfect Pantry.

When I cook, I hear voices.

I hear Jacques Pepin, Diana Kennedy, Ina Garten and Martin Yan, all urging me to try, experiment, enjoy. I hear Julia Child, or Dan Aykroyd channeling Julia, encouraging me to keep going, even if what I'm creating looks like a googly mess.

When I cook Cajun, I hear Justin Wilson. A humorist, storyteller, and talented home cook who spent the first part of his career as a safety engineer inspecting warehouses in South Louisiana, he hosted a cooking show on public television thirty years ago, long before the rest of the country had heard of etoufeé and andouille.

From Justin Wilson I learned about the Cajun trinity, the basic flavorings that start every soup and stew: celery, bell pepper, and onion. What he actually said was SEL-ray, bell PEP-pah, and un-NYUANH, way up in the nasal back of his throat, and whenever I make anything that begins with the trinity, I hear his voice.

In fact, there's very little cooking that does not include onions, which have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Of the total world crop, more than 87 percent is yellow onions, eight percent red, and five percent white.

Onion

Stored properly in a cool, dry place, whole onions will keep for several weeks, or up to several months. I buy yellow onions in three- or five-pound bags and, because I use them frequently, I keep them in a basket on my kitchen counter. A screen or rack in a dry cellar works well, too.

Here's the strangest storage method I've read about, but not tried, from the Sweet Onion Source: Take a leg from a pair of clean sheer pantyhose. Drop an onion into the foot, and tie a knot right above it. Drop in another onion, tie a knot, and work your way up the leg. Hang this contraption in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, though perhaps not front and center in your kitchen! When you need an onion, start at the bottom and cut below the lowest knot. Cut off as many onions as you need, and let the rest hang out.

A few fun facts about onions:

  • According to the US Department of Agriculture, men consume 40 percent more onions than women. I don't know why, but I think that's true in my house.
  • Russian Orthodox churches (think St. Basil's Cathedral, in Moscow's Red Square) are topped with onion-shaped domes because the onion's concentric rings are a symbol of eternity.
  • An onion under the pillow is believed to ward off insomnia.
  • In ancient times, Greek athletes rubbed onion on their bodies before the Olympic Games to bring them strength and endurance. In World War II, Russian soldiers rubbed onion on wounds, as an antiseptic. I have never ever rubbed onion on anyone's body.
  • Parsley is the antidote to "onion breath."
  • The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster #2 is one of six cocktails traditionally garnished with an onion.

Now, really, can you imagine life without onions?

Salsa and shrimp stuffed avocado.

Salsa and shrimp stuffed avocado

Serves 6; can be doubled, or halved.

Ingredients

3 ripe, but still firm, avocados*
7 large (21-25 per pound) shrimp, or more if smaller, shells on
2 cups chopped fruit (tomato, or mango, or peaches)
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp finely chopped, seeded fresh jalapeño pepper
Pinch of kosher salt, to taste
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish

Directions

*Here's a tip I learned from Kalyn's Kitchen: Buy avocados a few days in advance. Bring them to desired ripeness on the countertop, then put them in the refrigerator. They will hold their ripeness, without getting overripe, for up to a week.

In a small sauce pan, place the shrimp and cover by half an inch with water. Bring water to a simmer, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and curled. Drain and rinse under cold water, then peel the shrimp. Chop roughly, place in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.

In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients and toss well. Adjust seasoning with lime juice and salt, to taste. Cover and chill 1-2 hours, to allow the flavors to melt.

Add shrimp to salsa, and toss to combine. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Cut each avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit. Score each half, leaving the avocado in the shell.

Avocado1

Divide the salsa among the six avocado halves, filling the cavity and mounding it up on top. Squeeze a little bit of lime juice over all, and garnish with some cilantro leaves.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Roasted halibut tacos with mango salsa
Mock guacamole
Black bean cakes with guacamole
French onion soup
Onion bhaji
Lemon and onion hummus

Comments

I'm picturing several strands of onions in fishnet stockings in your kitchen. Great idea for Christmas gifts, too. Thanks for the excellent tips on keeping avocados in the fridge.

My grandma use to do the pantyhose onion trick especially when they were storing onions out of the garden. It works however, I can't bring myself to buy pantyhose without imagining that the store clerk thinks a cross dresser and most importantly I don't know how I would explain to friends why I have a pantyhose dangling onion hanging in my kitchen.

Normally mine just get tossed in a good size drawer to relax.

Nice tip on the avocado too.

You are so lucky to hear such great voices. When I cook, I only hear my stomach demanding to hurry up! This avocado looks just delicious!

This recipe is the perfect sort of lunch for me. I adore avocado... sometimes having it with a fried egg and tomato on some whole grain bread. We have great access to reasonably priced avocados year round here in SoCal so they make an appearance in my shopping cart every time I'm at the market.

Onions... yep, I'm with you. They're in absolutely everything and I can't imagine living without them!

This is similar to the shrimp ceviche served at a local Mexican restaurant. Just put the shrimp on a crispy tostada shell, slice the avocado on top and drizzle Bufalo hot sauce over the whole thing. Yum!

anything with avocado is my weakness. your's looks delicious!

p.s. speaking of cajun food, have you read the food memoir Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunée? She also speaks of the 'trinity', and that is the voice I hear when I begin a cajun meal.

as for parsley curing onion breath, food detectives busted that ;)

i had a similar dish in mexico with cold squid, scallops and shrip in a sweet spicey sauce nestled in half an avacado.. yummy!

Something to watch for in this years' avocado crop! Be careful to look for raised hard spots which run vertically in the fruit. When you open the avocado you will find these are hard stems growing INSIDE the fruit. Make sure the fruit has none of these blemishes on them.
In California there are lots of folks like me who have to have their avocado fix! Greatest fruit, and very good for skin and hair.

How funny! I thought I was the only one that heard voices. I hear Justin Wilson everytime I do red beans and rice.

I am the onion gal in our house - love it raw on burgers, sausage in a bun or anything like that.
I love the photo with the stuffed avocado - looks delish!

Ok, I use to use the stocking trick back when I wore stockings (not panty hose) the trick it to start the knot at the ankle of the stocking cutting off the foot.
You know somewhere I think I might give it a try again.

Isn't it amazing how those avocados stay good in the refrigerator. I wish I could remember who taught me that! Love the sound of this. I could eat this every day!

How about the onion under the pillow to ward off insomnia? Is that already proven or what? By the way, thanks for the recipe, I love mexican dishes.

Lucia, this could be a whole new decorating style for me!

Jeff, I'm giggling... I think we could start a trend with pantyhose onions!

Noble Pig, I really learned to cook by watching TV shows and reading books by people like Diana Kennedy. I guess the voice I hear most often is Julia Child's; she was always urging us to be fearless.

RecipeGirl, this is a perfect lunch for me, too. I always have shrimp in the freezer, and often have some salsa going in the fridge. The whole thing comes together in minutes, and it's light and healthy.

Janel, a little added hot sauce is always good.

L*Joy, this book is new to me, but I'm going to request it from the library right away. Sounds wonderful.

Amy, that dish does sound delicious.

Barbara, thanks for the heads-up about the avocado bumps. Are these only in the Hass avocados, or in the green ones, too?

Pam, the man had that distinctive voice, and I do still hear it whenever I'm working on a pot of jambalaya.

Natashya, I love onions, but cannot eat them raw. In fact, even the smell of raw onions gets to me. But saute them for a minute or two, and I'll add them to anything.

Kim, don't know about you, but I haven't worn stockings (or panty hose, for that matter) for so many years that I'd have to make a special purchase just to hang my onions in them.

Kalyn, same here. This is just my kind of lunch or light supper dish.

Wow, I don't know about warding off insomnia, but I think it would ward off company!

Lydia, that recipe combines just about all of my favorite tastes - I have to try it, SOON!

Speaking of onions - do you remove the green shoots that sometimes appear in the center of onions (garlic, too)? I notice that Ina Garten never does, but I always do, which can add a lot of time to onion chopping!

Judy

Life without onions? Are you serious? Other than oatmeal, I can think of very very few dishes that don't benefit from onions. And garlic, of course!

he..he..I do hear voices when I cook too.Mine is anthony bourdain!

do you think the person who thought up the "onion under the pillow trick to cure insomnia" was married ;-)

I actually own an avocado slicer from C&B. It is silly and not useful for most because it is too big for the smaller avocados found in the stores. but it seemed like a good idea at the time! LOL

Justin Wilson, oh yes, I hear you!
Love that thought of hearing voices when in the kitchen . . . seems only natural.

We only get true Vidalias about once a year when the Shriners sell them. I always buy a lot of them and do the pantyhose thing. Or at least I do now that I learned the method from Alton Brown!

Janet from Tucson

Wow - I'm salivating! Those pictures are stunning - even the raw onion is making me hungry, and the avocado is to die for!

Judy, I don't usually remove the green shoots from onions (though I do remove them from garlic). If the center of the onion is googly, I remove that.

Toni, agreed. And the aroma of onions cooking in the kitchen is one of my favorite things, so I want every dish to start with onions.

Veron, I wouldn't mind hearing his voice too, from time to time. I think he's great.

Carol, definitely not! The thought of raw onions under my pillow makes me cringe.

MyKitchen, shouldn't the kitchen be a place full of friends and family and noise and laughter? And wouldn't it be fun to have all of those great chefs in the kitchen with us?

Janet, Vidalias aren't available for very long here, either, but they are wonderful.

TW, I could get addicted to this avocado dish so easily. And the colder it is, the better.

Oh man, Justin Wilson - I haven't thought about him for years! I can just remember him talking about "cay-enne peppah". Too funny. Great presentation with this one. As someone who loves avocados I'd definitely grab this appetizer from the tray!

I thought that is very healthy :)
And like how you serve it in the avocado.

Oh dear heavens! Salsa and Shrimp Stuffed Avocado? I'm in love with this recipe! Talk about a perfect trinity---it contains all my favorite foods! I will be trying this soon---perhaps even today!

I'm going to have to try the pantyhose/onion contraption---at least in the basement. While it may not be as classy as a copper-wire fruit & veggie basket, it's definitely something to spark conversation, "Hey, interested in seeing the pantyhose/onion hanger in the basement?" ;)

"I have never ever rubbed onion on anyone's body." LOL

Onions and avocados get used very quickly at our house, so we've never had a problem storing them. The shrimp and avocados looks delicious!

Hmn... this is a very good idea. I'm just discovering the savoury applications of avocado and I think this is just wonderful, I should try this.

Lydia, I have been thinking about your comment, and my continuing quest to solve The Mystery of the Shoots in the Center. You said, "I don't usually remove the green shoots from onions (though I do remove them from garlic)."

I have to ask: why do you remove the green shoots from garlic, but not from onions?

Judy (still wondering :-)

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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