When we decided to use our garden for food, none of us knew what to plant. Therefore, my family visited an Orchard Supply Hardware store to get some ideas. As soon as we walked in the door, Mom saw bags of small onion bulbs for sale. She bought a bag after having heard that green onions were easy to grow at home.
Each bag had about a hundred bulbs. Realizing that we couldn't eat so many onions at once, Mom planted a quarter of them and saved the rest for later. Growing them was much easier than expected. The onion sprouted after just a few days, and were large and plump at harvest time.
Because onions are frequently used in Chinese cuisine, they quickly ran out. But when we went to plant the remaining bulbs, they had already dried up and died. Mom didn't want to use up the ones left in the ground and only cut off the leaves. The onions eventually stopped growing after a while.
The following year, my mother noticed that the onions were still alive. They didn't sprout but had grown multiple roots. She had no idea they could get so big and wasn't even sure they were edible. Although we were afraid they were poisonous, Mom gave the onions to a friend that wanted them. Several days later, the friend reported that - not only did she not get sick - they were the best onions she has ever tasted. Only then did we realize how silly we were!
Since then, my family would often use green onions in our dishes. Mom's favorite onion recipe is her homemade focaccia - nobody who has tasted it could turn down the allure. Our friends would always take it home to share with their families. Though I never really ate onion as a kid, the focaccia smelled so good that I couldn't give in to my temptations. It became one of my favorite foods and eventually led me to enjoy other onion dishes.
Focaccia usually comes in the onion and olive varieties, but we sometimes combine the two ingredients. This is the first dish I learned from my mother. Our version is different from the focaccia sold in bakeries.
For the base:
- ¾ cups water
- 1 extra large egg
- ¼ cups olive oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp yeast
For the topping:
- 2 medium-sized onions, julienne
- 2 tbsp chopped garlic
- 1 to 1½ cups mozzarella cheese
- ⅓ cups mixed olives
Before making the base, preheat the oven to 350° F and prepare the topping as follows:
- Add 2 tsp olive oil to skillet and cook onion for several minutes using medium-high heat.
- Add garlic, followed by salt and black pepper to taste.
- Sauté until onion softens.
- Set aside and let cool.
For the dough:
- Combine base ingredients in bread machine. Use "dough" setting for best results.
- Once dough is done, remove from container and flatten.
- In the meantime, begin preparing the topping as follows.
Preparing the focaccia:
- Form dough into pizza shape.
- Use fork to make holes in dough.
- Spread onion on top of base.
- Evenly distribute mozzarella cheese on top of onion.
- Add mixed olives to focaccia.
- Let dough rise in warm place for 30 minutes or until size has doubled.
- Place focaccia on lower rack of oven and bake for 20 minutes or until edge becomes golden brown.
- Remove from oven, place on wire rack and serve warm.
- Be sure follow the bread machine instructions. Every machine is different, especially when it comes to handling moisture. One rule of thumb is that the longer it takes to knead the dough, the more water is required.
- If you don't want to use whole wheat flour, you can use three cups of all-purpose flour instead.
- From personal experience, either soft or caramelized onion works well. They have different flavors, but both are delicious in their own way.
- You can use any type of onion, such as red and white ones. Of course, those aren't the only options. One thing I've learned from Mom is that cooking is a creative art - anything that tastes good can be used.
- In our opinion, the best mixed olives (also called bruscetta) are the Martha Stewart brand. You can sometimes find them at Costco or any regular grocery store.
- The shape of the dough doesn't have to be a circle. It can be an oval, strip or anything you like. I personally prefer the pizza shape as it gives a better texture.