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I really enjoy cooking with onions and find them highly versatile. Since I try to maximize taste in each dish I create it's important to use ingredients that add high flavor value. Onion is definitely one of those ingredients. In addition to being versatile and flavorful there are many natural benefits and curative properties in the onion. Even the onion juice is used therapeutically. Raw onion is the most beneficial. In Hawaii the Maui onions is variety of sweet onion that lacks sulfur, which causes the strong odor and sharp taste associated with onions. The State of Hawaii has invested a great of money in marketing their famous onion variety, putting it on par with Vidalia onions from Georgia, another sweet onion variety. This distinct onion variety flourishes best in the rich volcanic soil of Haleakela, which dominates the landscape of Maui.
The Maui onion has a rich golden yellow color and they typically grow in a slightly flattened shape. This onion variety is not only mild and sweet but also very juicy due to its high water content. I love caramelizing these onions, with a little bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Sea Salt, making them melt in your mouth. They can also be grilled and fried tempura style.

 Caramelized Onions

2 cups thinly sliced Maui onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp. Sea Salt
Caramelize onions by heating 2 tbls olive oil in sauté pan on high. Stir in onions and coat with oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt. Allow them to start softening on high heat. Stir constantly so they do not brown too much or burn at first. After onions start becoming opaque you can lower heat to medium high. Stir often in the beginning to prevent uneven cooking and burning. Monitor the heat. After the first process of softening you can stir occasionally. Watch and continue to stir and be sure onions are caramelizing evenly. Once they start cooking and you have adjusted the heat they won't burn if you stir them occasionally. However, it's important to make sure they are evenly browning and caramelizing. They should be a deep golden brown and softened. This process can take 25-30 minutes to create the caramelization. You can add these onions to wraps, fritattas or stir-fries. Enjoy!


Featured Ingredient

This year here in Maui, Hawaii mangoes have been flourishing and I have found myself in mango paradise.  I discovered a tree in my neighborhood here in Kihei that was bearing fruit in April.   Mangoes usually mature early July and August here in Hawaii.  I then discovered over a dozen trees of differing varieties in a 2-block radius.  I am so excited because it feels like a gift that keeps dropping from heaven.  I so look forward to my morning foraging for mangoes.  It’s a piece of paradise that I can touch, feel and taste. 

Click for Frozen Coconut Mango Pie Recipe
Frozen Mango Coconut Nut PieI am like a kid in a candy store.  I started eating the mangoes raw, making fruit smoothies, even mango muffins and mango coconut sorbet, frozen mango pie and started sharing the mangoes with friends.  Along the way I have discovered lemon, pomelo and breadfruit trees as well around the corner from where I live.  It feels as if I have been able to access what comes to us in its purest form without any human intervention.  This experience has given me a greater appreciation of the local produce and the beautiful place where I live.

 What I have discovered on my journey of learning about the mango is that it is considered a royal fruit.  It’s a fruit that comes from a rich descent.  It is an enchanting fruit that has caused me to want to write about it. This fruit is exceptional, not only for its nutritious value and amazing intense taste, but it has a history as well.  It has been estimated that there are over 1000 commercial varieties in India, where mangos are often called the "king of fruits".  India is the world's largest producer of mangoes and has been cultivating this species for more than 4,000 years. 

It is said that the Buddha was given the gift of a whole grove of mango trees where he could rest whenever he wished.  It was a place for him to go and sit back and enjoy nature and a piece of paradise on earth.  From that time on the mango tree was held in awe as capable of granting a person wishes.  It is said that in India that the mango tree is so revered that it has become a symbol of love. Offerings of mango leaves are presented at wedding ceremonies, a ritual that guarantees the couple will bear many children. Throughout Indian villages there is a powerful belief that the mango trees grow new leaves each time a son is born. To herald the new birth to their neighbors, doorways are decorated with mango leaves.

Revered not only for their exotic sweetness and juicy quality, mangoes are known for their many health benefits. In addition to offering huge amounts of beta carotene, antioxidants and vitamin C, the mango also contains an enzyme that is a soothing digestive aid.  A mango consists of over 80% water and is a great fruit to eat to replenish energy after working out. 

Mango trees are  evergreens and grow as high as 90 feet with a width of 80 feet.  Mangoes are in the same family as pistachios, cashews, poison oak and poison ivy.  Perhaps that explains why so many people have allergic reactions when they touch the skin and sap.  Weight of the fruit varies and can be up to over 4 pounds.  Each tree produces about 100 fruit.  Mature fruit has a characteristic fragrance and a smooth, thin, tough skin.  Mangoes should be picked before they are fully ripe, at which time they soften and fall.  

When selecting a mango  make sure it has a tropical fruity aroma as unripe mangoes have no scent. A fresh mango will give slightly to the touch, but soft and bruised fruit will be overripe.  It’s best to allow them to ripen at room temperature and then refrigerate.  A mango will continue to ripen at room temperature especially if you see sap and enough sugars from the tree still on the fruit itself. Some mangoes ripen to a combination of raspberry, orange and green shades, while other varieties are golden yellow or green when ripe. The size of the mango varies according to variety.  The larger the mango the more fruit in relation to the pit.

What I know for sure is that the mango has given me a greater perspective on gifts that come to us from a place that cannot be seen or heard.  It’s a place where gifts are given and the receiver must be open to receiving.  I had gone by the mango trees so many times and never even noticed their magnificence.  I never even noticed that they were there.  Now I go by those trees everyday and am so appreciative of what they represent.  They represent magic, abundance, well-being, vitality and grandness.  It is as if the awareness of the mango has allowed me to tap into the essence of what it represents.  Enjoy and let the taste of the mango fill your body and its essence fill your spirit.

Ann-Marie Burtell    
Owner/Culinary Artist             
Fresh Chef 7/17/08

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