Saturday, September 17, 2011

When inspiration hits

It had been a while since I was inspired by the items in my CSA delivery. So it's seems odd that it took an onion to kick my inspiration back in gear. Specifically this onion:

Yes that's my CSA delivery from right before Hurricane Irene and, yes, that is a honking big onion, pulled right out of Suffolk's rich soil and brought to me by my favorite food fairy, Jan of Clayhill Farms. And it got me wanting to create something using only CSA items, or at least something that didn't require me to leave the house. And looking at my delivery, I suddenly lit upon the idea of mixing roasted eggplant and caramelized onion. I had never done either, but I figured it couldn't be that difficult. And then, after discovering leftover pasta sauce and two kinds of cheese, I knew I'd be making pizza.

Specifically roasted eggplant and caramelized onion pizza with feta and mozzarella. And it was so good, I figured I'd (finally) share the recipe with you.

Roasted eggplant and caramelized onion pizza
Makes enough topping for two pizzas
1 medium eggplant, skinned and cubed
2 tbsp. olive oil
sea salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp. honey
Pizza sauce (fresh or store bought)
Fresh pizza dough (you can make this or buy fresh dough at most grocery stores)

For the eggplant:

  • Skin and cut into cubes. Salt and leave covered on the counter or in the fridge for at least a half hour. This will draw out the juices, which can leave the eggplant bitter when cooked. (You can skip this step but if you have a more mature eggplant, you'll regret it.) Drain, rinse and pat dry.
  • Toss cubes with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary, chopped. Scatter on a baking pan and roast in a 400 degree oven until browned. 

For the caramelized onions:

  • Cut onion(s) in half and then slice into thin strips. You can go thicker, but I just wanted the onions to almost melt away so cut them as thinly (read safely) as a could. 
  • Coat the bottom of a wide, deep saucepan with 1 tbsp. of butter per onion or a mixture of olive oil and butter (I only used one onion, so I just did at tablespoon of butter).
  • Add onions and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and 1 tsp. of honey (optional). Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the onions have reached your desired color, tenderness and taste. I only did 30 minutes. 
  • Try to avoid stirring constantly. You need to butter/oil to brown but you don't want the onions to burn. 
For the pizza:
  • Your oven should already be at 400 degrees, but if not, preheat it. Put your pizza stone in there to heat up while you assemble your pizza.
  • Roll out your dough using cornmeal to keep it from sticking to your paddle. Press out from the middle and fold over the outer rim to create a crust. You want this dough thinner so it crisps up enough to handle the toppings but also thick enough to handle the toppings. It's pretty much trial and error here folks.
  • Add sauce, mozzerella, eggplant, onions and feta. 
  • Bake until the cheese is brown and to crust is crispy. Eat as is or drizzle with balsamic vinegar to cut through the rich earthiness of the roasted eggplant and carmelized onions.
  • When I make pizza, I use a pizza stone preheated in the oven. I slide the pizza onto the stone with a pizza paddle. Don't have these items? Get them, STAT! Or add them to your Christmas list, as we did. Why? Because pizza stones make the best pizza. However, you can also just cook this on pan, round or square. You just have to shape the dough to fit the pan and be aware that it won't be as awesome as my pizza, though it will still be delicious.
  • Yes, these are a lot of steps and yes it took a lot of work for two pizzas. But they are amazing pizzas. Consider making one pizza and then using the leftover ingredients for a layered pasta dish on another day. The toppings will keep for a week or so in the fridge and can be used in many ways.
  • As I always say in pizza posts, customize away. 

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