I often think about what I would cook if I were plunked down in some foreign place with no kitchen tools other than a knife and a cutting board. Hopefully I would also have a stove and some pots, but you know– no blender, no processor, no mixer etc. This is not just some irrational fear of an eccentric cooking person…. okay well maybe it is, but anything can happen and it’s good to be prepared, so I’ll tell you: I would make a whole lot of caramelized onions. It’s amazing what you can you do to a few thinly sliced onions with some olive oil and a wide pan set over medium heat. Caramelizing onions takes a little time, up to an hour depending on the thickness of the cut and the amount you are trying to fit into your pan, but other than the chopping and the waiting, there is very little for you to do. When they are finished you have a sweet, almost spreadable substance that can be used as a main ingredient or a condiment for many dishes.
For this pizza I used vidalia onions which are sweeter than regular yellow onions and therefore caramelize especially well due to their sugar content. But you can use yellow onions and add a little sugar to them during cooking, or just leave them as they are. I used three large vidalias in a 12 inch heavy sautee pan and my cooking time was about 40 minutes, with occasional stirring. You can adjust the amounts for any of the components of this pizza, it is a very flexible recipe and having leftover onions, pears or goat cheese might inspire some creative sandwich making!
Caramelized Onion, Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza
Note: I rolled out my dough very thinly and made one full half-sheet pan (standard cookie sheet size) and one quarter sheet pan. I think a thin crust- about 1/4 inch- works well with these more refined toppings, but feel free to make a thicker crust if you wish. This pizza serves about six)
For the Dough
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup, plus 2 Tbs warm water (~ 100 degrees F)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1 whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
flour or semolina for rolling out dough and for the pan.
For the Topping
3-4 large vidalia onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
5-6 seckle pears, thinly sliced, or 2-3 larger pears – bosc would work nicely
Crumbled fresh goat cheese.
Make the dough
In a large bowl (you can use a stand mixer or do this by hand), dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit until foamy- about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, oil and flour and stir with your hand, wooden spoon or with the dough hook attachment on low speed. When flour is absorbed, continue kneading on counter or with dough hook for 8-10 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary to keep from sticking to your hands, the counter or the side of your mixer bowl.
Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and set it in a warm draft-free spot to rise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the onions:
Using a large, sharp knife halve and thinly slice 3-4 good sized peeled vidalia onions. Heat 3 Tbs olive oil in a heavy 12 inch pan over medium heat.
Add the onions. At first they may crowd the pan but they will shrink quite bit, cover the pan for a few minutes if you need them to shrink faster. Stir occasionally. If onions are browning too quickly, turn the heat down lower. This should be a pretty slow process anywhere from 25 minutes to almost an hour. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Onions are done when they are very translucent, soft and almost saucy with a pale golden hue. Set them aside to cool.
Check to see if your dough has doubled in size. If it has, you are ready to begin rolling out and assembling your pizza.
Rolling out Dough
Set your ball of dough on a large, clean, lightly floured work surface. Punch it down (it’s okay to leave some air pockets- we like that in pizza dough). And flatten it out. Using a rolling pin, roll out and manipulate your dough into your desired shape and thickness. If you are using a pizza stone, go ahead and preheat the oven to 475 or 500 F and place the stone in the oven. If not, throw a little semolina/flour/cornmeal down on a couple of sheet pans and place your dough on them (I baked mine on sheet pans at 475 F).
Spread onions evenly over the dough followed by your desired amount of thinly sliced pears. I used these cute little seckel pears.
Crumble goat cheese evenly over the top and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper.
Bake at between 450-500 F for ~ 15 minutes. Slice and eat!