Wednesday, July 29, 2009

an alternative to cheese and crackers

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
olive oil
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.


Color Me Green said...

i'm still trying to find my go-to grilled pizza dough recipe, i'll have to try this one.

The Single Gal said...

You're a better woman than I am... I buy the dough. I know, I know.

But this looks so good - we can have cocktails at your house anytime!

Lisa said...

Julia: There are a lot out there, right? Maybe this one will work for you--let me know how it goes.

TSG: There's no shame in buying dough, girl!

Daniel said...

This was very good. I find that I like a pizza that goes light on the toppings. I think I actually prefer sauceless.

Ulla said...

that looks so lovely! YUNMMY!

lulu said...

this was delicious, and i was lucky enough to taste some, and then some more- and I agree, it felt light & tasty because it wasn't saucy..I can't wait to try it at home - thanks Lisa!

Lisa said...

Daniel: I like sauce more than you do, but I agree that this pizza was very good without it.

Ulla: Thank you!

Lulu (AKA Lara): Thanks, girl. We really enjoyed having you guys over!

Hillary said...

That is quite the alternative! Looks soo yummy!! Thanks again for participating in the Monthly Mouthful! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your delicious honey sprinkle sandwich :) Hehe.


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