Music: Honky Tonk Women – The Rolling Stones
This weekend we went to Connecticut to see my family. My mom invited her sister and my cousins over for dinner on Sunday night. It’s been a long time since we’ve all been together and we spent most of the afternoon preparing the meal as a family. It was a fairly traditional Sunday Night Dinner; pasta with meatballs, red sauce and ricotta but we had some noteworthy starters and sides.
Sweet caramelized onion and garlic complement salty black olives and a bite of hot pepper, which gives this pizza a complex set of flavors. The simplicity of the recipe and bold, crowd pleaser tastes will make this a first course hit for any dinner. It goes well with soup, as an appetizer course, or along with a salad for lunch.
What you will need:
6-8 cups of flour , 2 packages of yeast, 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoons of salt, 2 Sweet onions, 2-3 cloves of garlic (more to taste), 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of a large skillet plus some more),1/4 teaspoon of sugar, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, hot pepper flakes to taste, a dozen black olives (oil cured or plain black depending on how salty you like them).
- In small mixing bowl add 2 packages of yeast to 1 1/4 cups of lukewarm water and stir until dissolved.
- In another small mixing bowl combine 1 1/4 cups of lukewarm water olive oil, sugar and salt and stir until dissolved.
- Combine two wet mixtures.
- Slowly add and mix in 1 cup of flour at a time (You’ll use between 6-8 cups)
- By cup 5 you will have to hand kneed flour into dough. When finished dough will be springy yet firm. (Dough is delicate and needs love! It’s alive remember!)
- Let rise for 1 hour (put in a bowl with some olive oil on the bottom and cover with dishcloth). Punch dough down after it has risen.
- Let rise again for another hour.
For the topping:
- Slice two large sweet onions into thin strips.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over med heat about 3 minutes. Once the oil is hot (flick a drop of water into it or drop a small piece of the onion in, if bubbles form around it, its ready), add the onion and lower the heat to med-low. Let the onion cook down slowly, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes. Scrape up any brown bits as the onions caramelize and add the sugar.
- While the onion is cooking, mince the garlic and set aside. This process can vary – this weekend, I put the onions in the pan and made my mother in law watch them while I took a shower…so that is pretty long). Remember, the secret to caramelizing anything is slow cooking at low heat.
- Once the onion is translucent and about to brown, push it up against one side of the pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil to the cleared space. This creates a hot spot in the pan.
- Add the minced garlic to the hot spot and cook to just brown, about 1 minute. Once the garlic begins to turn mix it with the rest of the onion and allow the mixture to cook for another five minutes on med-low.
- At this time you can add salt and pepper to taste as well as the hot pepper flakes. I like this pizza spicy so I give at least three or four shakes. Once the onion mixture is combined remove it from heat and place in a bowl.
For the pizza:
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat at 400 degrees.
- While the oven is heating, flour a hard work surface and roll out your pizza dough.
- Add the topping and spread evenly to the edge. Slice the olives and sprinkle on top of the onion mixture. If you use oil cured olives pit them first.
- Cook the pizza on a stone or a round pizza pan for 18 to 20 minutes or until crisp on the bottom and the crust is golden brown. Serve with course sea salt and some good olive oil.
We like to start parties off with Kir Royale. It’s a nice afternoon aperitif made of 5 parts Champagne and 1 part Crème de Cassis. You can add a lemon twist for flavor if you’d like. Add the Cassis first and pour the champagne over it. We drank these while we prepared the rest of the meal.
Schiacciata – (ska-CHA-taa)
In northern Italy schiacciata is similar to foccacia – a flat bread seasoned with olive oil and herbs. In Sicily it’s more like a really big empanada, stuffed with yummy things. It varies from region to region and both of our families have different recipes for schiacciata too. When James decided to make an onion pie, we knew we’d need to make dough – so my mom thought she would dust off my grandmother’s recipe for schiacciata.
We chopped an onion, washed off some spinach, chopped 3 cloves of garlic and pulled some sausage out of the Sunday sauce. We boiled three potatoes for 10 minutes until they were soft and able to be cut into thin slices. To the vegetables, we added 1/2 cup of olive oil and tossed with a touch salt and pepper. We rolled out the dough into an 18 inch circle. Once stuffed, we folded it over (think calazone) and pinched the edges. We poked holes in the top to make sure it didn’t expand in the oven. Brush the top with olive oil and cook for 20-25 minutes on 350 degrees…et Voila!
Fig & Goat Cheese Bruschetta
My mother had recently been to a party where they served this tasty morsel. First we cut up a baguette into ¾ inch slices and positioned on baking sheet. We drizzle olive oil on one side and toasted them in the broiler for about 2 minutes. When they cooled we spread goat cheese and marmalade on the top before placing a slice of fig over the spread. I know lots of people don’t like goat cheese and I think you could replace it with a really fresh ricotta and it would taste just as nice.