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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Something even the onion haters would enjoy





Onion focaccia

When we decided to use our garden to actually grow food, none of us had any idea what to plant. Therefore, my family visited an Orchard Supply Hardware store to get some inspiration. As soon as we entered the door, my mother saw bags of small onion bulbs for sale. She bought a bag after having heard that green onions were easy to grow.

There were about 100 bulbs per bag. Realizing that we obviously couldn't eat a hundred onions at once, Mom figured she'd plant a quarter of them and save the rest for later. They sprouted after just a few days; growing them was much easier than expected. The onions were large and plump at harvest time.

As onions are frequently used in Chinese cuisine, they quickly ran out. But when we went to plant the second batch, the bulbs had already dried up and died. Though there were a few left in the ground, Mom didn't want to use them up and only cut off the leaves. They eventually stopped growing.

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 green onions could get so big. Although we weren't even sure they were edible, Mom gave them to a friend that wanted them. Several days later, the friend reported that they "were the best onions [she] has ever tasted." Imagine our surprise when she didn't get sick. 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 take it home to share with their families after potlucks. While 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 as well.

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.

Ingredients

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, julienned
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 to 1½ cups mozzarella cheese
  • ⅓ cups mixed olives

Directions

Before making the base, preheat an oven to 350° F and prepare the topping:

  1. Add 2 tsp olive oil to skillet; cook onion for several minutes using medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic, followed by salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. Sauté until onion is soft.
  4. Set aside and let cool.

For the dough:

  1. Combine base ingredients in bread machine. Use "dough" setting.
  2. Once dough is done, remove from container and flatten.
  3. Use this time to prepare the topping.

Preparing the focaccia:

  1. Form dough into pizza shape.
  2. Use fork to make holes in dough.
  3. Spread onion on top of base.
  4. Evenly distribute mozzarella cheese on top of onion.
  5. Add mixed olives to focaccia.
  6. Let dough rise in warm place for 30 minutes or until size has doubled.
  7. Place focaccia on lower rack of oven and bake for 20 minutes or until edge becomes golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven, place on wire rack and serve warm.

Tips

  1. Be sure follow the bread machine instructions. Every machine is different, especially with regards to handling moisture. One rule of thumb is that the longer it takes to knead the dough, the more water is required.
  2. If you don't want to use whole wheat flour, you can use three cups of all-purpose flour instead.
  3. From personal experience, either soft or caramelized onion works well. They have different flavors, but both are delicious in their own way.
  4. 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.
  5. The best mixed olives (also called bruscetta) are the Martha Stewart brand. You can sometimes find them at Costco or any regular grocery store.
  6. 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.

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