Slow Cooked Whole Onions with Sweet Tahini Sauce

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Have you ever cooked whole onions nishime style?

Nishime is a style of slow cooking with minimal water or liquid in the covered pot. As the vegetables cook, they gather heat and all the energy concentrates within the vegetable. It’s a very strengthening dish and great for nourishing your digestive system. I first learned nishime style cooking by a teacher who placed a variety of cut root vegetables in sections (not layered) in the pot. For a long time I thought that was the only way to make nishime.

Nishime cooking with only one or two vegetables is a newer development. Macrobiotic teacher and counselor, Warren Kramer, taught an onion dish very similar to this recipe. Feel free to vary the sauce added at the end to your own tastes. You can also substitute daikon, turnips, and cauliflower, taking care to adjust the cooking times. Cauliflower won’t need much time at all so that might be a good choice for a quick weekday dinner. You can even make the sauce ahead so it’s ready in advance. The sauce will probably last about a week, even longer without the lemon juice.

Slow Cooked Whole Onions with Sweet Tahini Sauce

5 medium size yellow or sweet onions, try to get them all the same size
3 postage stamp size pieces of kombu
3 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp sweet white or chickpea miso (find a mild miso, I like South River or Miso Master)
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
1 Tbsp brown rice syrup (I love Suzanne’s or Aunt Patty’s)

1. Cut the top off the onions and peel them. Trim the bottom so it will lay flat. Score the tops crosswise to about halfway down being careful to not go any further.

2. Choose a heavy pot, either stainless steel, a Le Creuset type or ceramic. You want it to be a snug fit for all the onions to sit in a single layer. You’ll need a heavy lid that fits well. You can add another onion or two if necessary to fill the bottom of the pot, but you will need to increase the amount of sauce accordingly.

3. Spread the kombu on the bottom of the pot and add 3-4 Tbsp water.

4. Arrange the onions top side up. Place pot on medium heat. Cover. Bring the pot to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to allow the liquid to simmer. Ideally, let the onions slow cook until they are meltingly tender. They are ready for the sauce when a paring knife slides in easily. This may take 40 minutes, or longer, depending on the size and freshness of the onions. In true nishime cooking, the lid isn’t lifted during the cooking process so the energy can stay in the pot and go into the vegetables. This creates a super strengthening dish. In reality, I might lift the lid once or twice just to make sure the onions aren’t running out of liquid and that it is still simmering. Find your own way with this. You don’t want it to burn! You can use a flame deflector if that helps you prevent burning.

5. While the onions are cooking, mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Add a little water if needed to create a thick, spreadable sauce.

6. When the onions are tender, remove the cover and spread each onion evenly with the sauce. Try to keep the sauce on top of the onions so it doesn’t slide off and mix with any liquid that is left. Replace cover and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

7. Remove from heat and serve.

Note:
Remember that the goal with nishime style cooking is to have minimal to no liquid left at the end, so consider how much moisture is in your vegetables when choosing the amount of liquid.
Recommended cooking time is for whole onions. Adjust the cooking time depending on the size and type of vegetable used. Cauliflower may only take 3-5 minutes.

 

Slow Cooked Whole Onions with Sweet Tahini Sauce

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Vegetable

Equipment

  • 1 large heavy bottom pot with lid

Ingredients
  

  • 5 medium size yellow or sweet onions try to get them all the same size
  • 3 postage stamp size pieces of kombu
  • 3 Tbsp tahini preferably unsalted, organic
  • 1 tsp sweet white or chickpea miso find a mild miso, I like South River or Miso Master
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest optional
  • 1 Tbsp brown rice syrup I love Suzanne's or Aunt Patty's

Instructions
 

  • Cut the top off the onions and peel them. Trim the bottom so it will lay flat. Score the tops crosswise to about halfway down being careful to not go any further.
  • Choose a heavy pot, either stainless steel, a Le Creuset type or ceramic. You want it to be a snug fit for all the onions to sit in a single layer. You'll need a heavy lid that fits well. You can add another onion or two if necessary to fill the bottom of the pot, but you will need to increase the amount of sauce accordingly.
  • Spread the kombu on the bottom of the pot and add 3-4 Tbsp water.
  • Arrange the onions top side up. Place pot on medium heat. Cover. Bring the pot to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to allow the liquid to simmer. Ideally, let the onions slow cook until they are meltingly tender. They are ready for the sauce when a paring knife slides in easily. This may take 40 minutes, or longer, depending on the size and freshness of the onions. In true nishime cooking, the lid isn't lifted during the cooking process so the energy can stay in the pot and go into the vegetables. This creates a super strengthening dish. In reality, I might lift the lid once or twice just to make sure the onions aren't running out of liquid and that it is still simmering. Find your own way with this. You don't want it to burn! You can use a flame deflector if that helps you prevent burning.
  • While the onions are cooking, mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Add a little water if needed to create a thick, spreadable sauce.
  • When the onions are tender, remove the cover and spread each onion evenly with the sauce. Try to keep the sauce on top of the onions so it doesn't slide off and mix with any liquid that is left. Replace cover and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve.

Notes

Note:
Remember that the goal with nishime style cooking is to have minimal to no liquid left at the end, so consider how much moisture is in your vegetables when choosing the amount of liquid.
Recommended cooking time is for whole onions. Adjust the cooking time depending on the size and type of vegetable used. Cauliflower may only take 3-5 minutes.
Keyword macrobiotic, nishime, plant-based, root vegetable, vegan

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