Dear Garlic and Onions: Mellow Out

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we’re sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Chill out. And get your alliums to do the same.


As much as we value alliums as a base for all we do, their bite is easy to resent and difficult to forget: An errant fleck of raw onion or garlic at lunch will stay with you all day, and have you dreaming of dental hygiene products.

There are ways, though, to soften the bite of onions and garlic without cooking them — so you can take advantage of their crunch and freshness without offending your palate or scaring off dinner guests. Here’s how:

How to Mellow Garlic
How to Mellow Garlic

To mellow garlic:

  • Boil it in water or milk for about five minutes, or
  • Zap it in the microwave for a couple of minutes — according to Cook’s Illustrated, both of these techniques deactivate the compound in garlic that causes sharpness.

How to Mellow Onions on Food52
How to Mellow Onions on Food52

To mellow onions:

  • To retain their crunch, soak your onions in water for at least 10 minutes.
  • To soften them and bring out a bit of sweetness, sprinkle them with a generous amount of salt, making sure to coat each piece well. Rinse off the salt before adding your onions to salads or sandwiches.
  • It will change your onions’ flavor, but soaking them briefly in a bit of vinegar will soften them, both in taste and texture — think of it as an abridged quick pickle. 

Once you’ve softened your onions, try adding them to a kale salad, an egg sandwich, or pasta salad — and add your mellowed-out garlic to hummus, vinaigrettes, and pesto.

Yotam Ottolenghi & Sam Tamimi’s Basic Hummus

Makes 6 servings 

1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas
teaspoon baking soda
6 1/2 cups water
cup plus 2 tablespoons tahini (light roast)
tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
cloves garlic, crushed
6 1/2 tablespoons ice cold water
Good quality olive oil, to serve (optional)

  1. The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
  3. Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine sill running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the ice water and allow it to mix for about five minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
  4. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving. Optionally, to serve, top with a layer of good quality olive oil. This hummus will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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Tell us: How do you take the bite out of your alliums?

This article originally appeared on How to Mellow Garlic and Onions