How I Learned to Make Gluten-Free Friends and Love Walla Walla Onions

Afke Zonderland, Chef and Founder, Okanagan Rawsome

Afke Zonderland, Chef and Founder, Okanagan Rawsome

Okanagan Rawsome’s mission is to awaken your taste buds to delicious RAW, SPROUTED, GLUTEN-FREE, and VEGAN living! Afke Zonderland, Chef & CEO shares how easy it is to live a whole-food philosophy and make the healthiest choices for yourself and your family.

“During my teen years I absolutely despised onions.”

“Just for the record, onions were simply sliced and boiled and served with ground beef patties and potatoes. Oh Yuck! Gag kind of yuck!

Of course, all six of us kids were served a helping. No mercy for my older brother Frits or me. Somehow we managed to down the horrible slime mixed in with the customary barley porridge that was served after every meal. Needless to say,  once I got married and left home, yes in that order, onions never ever got past the kitchen door. The same was true for spinach and garlic!

walla-walla-onionsAfter 5 years in Canada my aversion was finally cured by Heather and Roger. Roger was building a house beside us in Richmond in his spare time and according to Dutch custom,  I would bring him a good strong coffee at 10.00 a.m. We were soon invited to dinner in return – a nice neighbourly gesture.

Heather, a most fabulous cook, served Coq au vin as the main dish! We could smell the onions and garlic as soon as we stepped into the hallway. Common courtesy dictated utmost politeness at a first dinner with well brought up “city people”. Nothing could – or would – be said. I sat down, put on a brave face, had an extra glass of red wine for courage and hoped for the best.

I don’t know if it was the wine, the onions,  the garlic, or the company – but a little magic happened that evening. It was the beginning of a friendship that is still going strong between the young Dutch farm kids and two young Londoner professionals – and the start of love relationship with Walla Walla onions and garlic.

The Walla Walla sweet onion is named for Walla Walla County in Washington State where it is grown. Its development began around 1900 when Peter Pieri, a French soldier who settled in the area, brought a sweet onion seed from the island of Corsica with him to the Walla Walla Valley. This sweet onion was developed by selecting and reseeding onions from each year’s crop that possessed sweetness, jumbo size, and round shape.

As proof of my complete conversion, I offer you my favorite onion and garlic recipes.”

Carmelized Onion Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust

“Unlike Heather, I can’t make a flaky pie crust if my life depended on it. This is a grand recipe that can be made a day ahead and served hot or cold. Pure heavenly fare for the gluten free too. Sweet potatoes are high in good for you potassium and beta carotene. As a side, serve a salad of fresh garden greens as a satisfying dinner.”


  • 2 medium size sweet potatoes
  • 2 large Walla Walla onions, sliced
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • Balsamic vinegar and maple syrup – may be replaced with your favorite balsamic reduction
  • 1 cup Grated Gouda cheese
  • Pepper and salt


  • Peel and slice the sweet potatoes (a mandolin works well for the potatoes as well as the onions.)
  • Bring to a quick boil to soften slightly. Rinse and drain.
  • Layer all the slices in the pie plate, making sure that the slices show above the sides of the pie plate.
  • Brush the potatoes with a little butter and season with salt and pepper
  • Pre-bake in a preheated 350 oven for 15 minutes.


  • Place all the onions in a heavy frying pan. Add 3-4 TBSP butter
  • Gently simmer until onions are very tender and begin to caramelize – approx. 20 minutes
  • Add ¼ cup of Nona Pia balsamic reduction, or 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Add 1 tbsp maple syrup.   Not too much!
  • Taste and decide if it needs a little more balsamic or maple syrup and a little Himalayan rock salt.
  • Remember that salt brings out the sweet flavours! It all depends a little on how sweet the onions are and how long you are willing to stir the pot.   Remember also that the onions tend to burn quickly after you have added maple syrup.


  • Scoop the caramelized onions in the semi-baked sweet potato crust.
  • Mix the eggs with the cream, add a touch of salt and gently pour over the onions.
  • Top with grated cheese and give it a light dusting with cayenne.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes until the quiche is set.

A small serving of peach chutney on the side will give you master chef status!

Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic and Basil BakeDried Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic and Basil Bake

“I harvested our garlic a little too late and quite a few of the bulbs won’t store well for the winter. So I am sorting the cloves that are not perfect and simply roast them. You can also peel and chop garlic (use food processor) and dehydrate slightly damaged cloves for quick additions to your hearty winter stews.”


  • 4 cups fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes
  • ¾ cup of peeled garlic cloves
  • Fresh basil
  • ½ cup of grated cheese


  • Layer fresh tomatoes with dehydrated tomatoes in a glass baking dish. The dehydrated tomatoes will soak up the extra juice.   (6 cups of Roma tomatoes might work very well too)
  • Bash the garlic cloves on the head with the flat of your chef’s knife to wake up this hugely beneficial allium
  • Let them breathe for 10 minutes before you place them on the bed of tomatoes
  • Sprinkle with chopped basil

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes

  • Add cheese 10 minutes before the tomatoes and garlic are nicely baked.

Serve on gluten-free crostini as an appetizer or on spiralized zucchini’s for a fabulous meal!

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