Is it wrong to crave Saturday on a Tuesday? I cannot help myself. It is turning into one of those weeks and I simply cannot wait for the weekend. But how to get through the next three days?!? I was pondering this very question on the subway ride home and, as often happens, the proverbial light bulb switched on. I decided I would deal with my overwhelming desire for the weekend by participating in my very first Weekend Herb Blogging, started by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and currently hosted by Cate of Sweetnicks.
Three days early.
My herb of choice is common garden sage or salvia officinalis. Sage is a Mediterranean herb that has been cultivated for thousands of years both for culinary and medicinal purposes. I am lucky enough to have a thriving sage bush in my own garden. Our sage bush positively drinks up the sun and loves dry, well-drained soil. The beauty of sage is that once it is established, it requires very little care beyond regular pruning. The added benefit of common garden sage is that it flowers. Each spring, I will glance out from the kitchen window and be pleasantly surprised by the lovely purple flowers that will suddenly appear. It’s a sight for sore eyes tired from a long, Canadian winter.
Used widely across Europe, we tend to use sage most in butter sauces or in roast potato or meat dishes. But recently I decided to snip a few of the young sage leaves to use on a pizza that I have been wanting to make for quite awhile.
Several months ago I finally bought a copy of the cookbook Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza & Calzone by Alice Waters. I have been in love with Chez Panisse since I was a little girl and an uncle gave me a copy of Chez Panisse Desserts. Even at a young age, I was impressed by the spirit behind Chez Panisse and instinctively identified with the philosphy behind the restaurant and the cookbooks. Having secured my copy, I took it home and immediately fell in love with virtually every recipe. But the one that caught my eye most was a recipe for pizza topped with caramelized onions. Knowing that I had a little sage bush waiting to bloom, I bookmarked this recipe and waited patiently.
And finally, the first young sage leaves appeared and I knew the time had come. As I wrote in one of my first posts, I have a tried and true recipe for pizza crust that I turn to all the time. But I was excited to try a new recipe. This particular recipe for pizza dough involves preparing a starter of yeast and rye flour. After mixing the starter and giving it time to develop, the rest of the recipe was fairly straightforward. I was pleasantly surprised at how much higher this pizza dough rose than my standard pizza dough recipe. I’m guessing that the starter gave the dough an extra lift.
While I waited for the dough to rise, I caramelized several onions and garlic cloves that I had sliced thinly. I added dried sage to the onion mixture. When the dough was ready, I shaped it. The dough was a joy to work with and easy to handle. I spread the onions on the pizza, along with some olive oil and sea salt. I decorated the pizza with fresh sage leaves. About halfway through the baking process, I sprinkled the pizza liberally with grated parmigiano and pecorino cheese.
The pizza was heavenly with a crisp exterior and a light interior. The rye flour gave a pleasant, almost tangy taste to the dough. This is without question a pizza dough recipe that I will turn to in future. And the caramelized onions and sage were delicious … a perfect combination.
I leave you with this final thought: the word salvia, in salvia officinalis, comes from the Latin "to heal". I’m happy to say that I’m feeling better and that maybe the coming three days won’t be so bad after all!
Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Sage
Adapted from Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza & Calzone by Alice Waters.
For the starter:
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup rye flour
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let rise for 20 minutes.
For the pizza dough:
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients with the risen starter. Mix with a wooden spoon at first and then turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead with your hands.
- The dough may be a bit sticky but kneading lightly with flour will make the dough easier to handle.
- Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a cloth. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and allow to rise again for 40 minutes.
- Shape the dough.
For the pizza topping:
- 3 onions, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon, dried sage
- 8-10 fresh sage leaves
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 cup parmigiano, freshly grated
- 1/4 cup pecorino, freshly grated
- While the pizza dough is rising, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions and garlic. Add the dried sage.
- Cook on low heat until the onions and garlic have caramelized (about 20 minutes). Don’t burn the onions or they will become bitter.
- Let the onion/garlic mixture cool until your pizza dough has been shaped.
- Once the pizza dough is shaped, spread the onion/garlic mixture over the top. Drizzle with the olive and sprinkle with the sea salt. Lay the fresh sage leaves over the onions and garlic.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Half way through baking, sprinkle the pizza with the parmigiano and the pecorino. Continue baking until the crust is golden.
Note: This recipe yields one 9 x 11" pizza or two smaller ones. Instead of sage, you can use rosemary.