Peeling The Onion- Layer 3: Pizza

Layer 3, and another chance to show you just how useful and versatile our roast cipollines can be. The idea in layer 1 was to create oven roasted whole cipolline onions and garlic cloves as an ingredient or a condiment in a variety of dishes. It’s something I do from time to time and a great culinary timesaver. In layer 1 we roasted the onions. In layer 2 we used them front and center in a spaghetti and clams recipe.

Today, layer 3,  is a good example of just what a life-saver these onions can be. Because it illustrates how a simple ingredient can change something from ordinary to spectacular with almost no effort. Now I love to cook and am not really a shortcut kind of guy. But sometimes outside factors weasel their way into your life and compromises must be made. But compromises need not take the form of the drive through window. Even when you are away from your own kitchen.

Because I am in San Diego. We came down here for a business obligation and decided to stay with friends for the night.  The plan was to sit on the terrace overlooking the water and eat a little something at sunset, then throw a tri tip on the grill, play a little wii bowling and hit the hay early in preparation for a very early business meeting.

We had driven from Los Angeles. Of course the traffic was horrendous. But I anticipated this. So I took a few steps to assure I would not be too much of a burden on our hosts. Besides, I am not the kind of houseguest who expects to be waited upon. I like to pitch in, especially on the kitchen duties. But between the drive, the late arrival time, and a full work day for all of us,  it was not the kind of evening any one of us would have the will or the way to spend hours putting together an elaborate meal. But we would still require excellent food and interesting flavors.

One of my very favorite items on a good antipasti plate are the pickled onions. They are sweet and sour. They are a lovely counterpoint to the rich cheeses and fatty meats that stand alongside them. This was my inspiration for the next layer in our “Chip” Cipolline onion saga.

I still had a ton of the roasted cipollines left over from the spaghetti of the night before. I decided to bring some along to San Diego. To get them ready for the drive down I roughly chopped about a dozen of them. I then put them into a jar and filled it with balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and a teaspoon of minced rosemary leaves.

I threw this into the back seat of the car. The jostling and the rolling around during our 3 hour journey was just the right sort of marinating these onions needed. I knew they would transform themselves into a sweet and sour bit of perfection.

I also knew my friends could be counted on to have good stuff in their fridge. One of the items I knew I would find was prepared pizza dough. Some people are so well prepared for whatever life throws at them. These are those sorts of people. They are actually prepared for a pizza emergency and in their minds Dominos is not the answer to that particular culinary calling.

So, having all the necessary ingredients we put together Caramelized Balsamic Onion Pink Peppercorn Pizza with Rosemary and Goat Cheese.

First I strained the chopped onions from the balsamic. I saved the liquid because I planned to use that as well.

I took the onions and carmelized them (even further) in a bit of olive oil. When they got good and soft I added the balsamic marinade to the pan along with about 20 pink peppercorns. These peppercorns grow all over this particular part of San Diego, so I felt like they deserved a place in our recipe. Plus they add a sweet peppery note that is fantastic with the vinegary onions. Next it was just a matter of reducing it all down to a jammy consistency.

We used this as the sauce on our pizza dough. Atop this sauce I put sliced goat cheese rounds and rosemary leaves. We baked it on a pizza stone 12 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees F. It came out of the oven hot and bubbly, the final touch was another nice sprinkling of crushed pink peppercorns.

So you see having these onions “at the ready” was key in producing a really tasty treat. I may have been way from my own kitchen, but this was stress free and left us with plenty of time left to enjoy the pizza with the sunset and a glass of an excellent dry reisling.

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Greg Henry