Nothing comes between me and a plate of cheese and crackers—throw in some olives and salami and I am a very happy camper. But sometimes even I get bored with cheese boards as a pre-dinner snack.
Lately, I've been making homemade pizza for dinners on Sunday nights. It feels sort of special, I always have time to make pizza dough on a weekend, and a whole pie leaves us with leftovers for lunch on Monday. For my rustic Italian-ish dinner a few weeks ago, I thought about making something similar for an appetizer but with less toppings—more like a flatbread. I didn't want everyone to fill up too much before dinner, so instead of piling it high with vegetables like I usually do, I kept things simple with sauteed red onions and a sprinkling of parmesan.
It ended up being a great idea. Paired with beer and cocktails, the pizza went down easy without overshadowing dinner. But if you were planning a light meal, it would easily work as a main course with some salad. Or perhaps some meat and cheese...which completely defies my original plan.
Caramelized onion flatbread
I've made this pizza dough recipe, adapted from Louise Pickford's book Grilling, so many times that the page is flecked with oil and bits of flour—a sign of a good recipe. Pickford's recipe calls for cooking the flatbread on a grill, but I use my pizza stone and bake it in the oven. Feel free to vary the toppings—sauteed sausage or peppers would be a great addition.
(Serves about four people as a starter)
1 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup hot water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
For the topping:
2 red onions, sliced thinly
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 handful parsley, minced
1/2 cup handful grated parmesan
Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the yeast and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour, then add the hot water and olive oil. Stir with a spoon until it has formed a soft dough. Knead the dough with floured hands, pressing it against the bowl until it is smooth and elastic. Shape it into a ball and cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, make the topping. Coat the bottom of a medium-sized pan with olive oil and heat over a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot, add the onions and shallot and cook until soft. Add the garlic and salt, and cook for a few minutes more, until the onions start to brown. Turn down the heat to medium low and add the vinegar. Sautee the onions for about 10 more minutes on low heat, stirring often. Remove from the heat when they are deeply caramelized, sweet and dark.
When the dough is ready, heat your oven to 450 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to make a 6-inch round circle. Place the dough on a pizza stone and brush it all over with olive oil. Add the onions and spread them out evenly over the crust. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parmesan and parsley. Serve immediately or at room temperature.