Monsoons, Onions and Pissaladiere

It’s been raining…..again.  The fields are flooded, muddy and our garlic’s rotting.  It’s one of those times when you realize you are not in control.  Three weeks ago 10 inches of rain, this week 4 inches.  Is it ever going to stop?  We were already behind in planting, but when it comes to the weather you learn to take it as it comes.  As the garlic rots, there is a vegetable that can’t seem to get enough moisture: onions.  Our yellow Stuutgarts and Red Barons show no signs of struggle against the standing water.  In fact they are lush and beautiful…all 28,000 of them!  Although onions are a basic crop there are many varieties to choose from.  You can also harvest them in various stages of development, making them serve dual purpose, young and early or mature for a later harvest.  We grew onions for the first time last year, not knowing whether or not they would go over with our customer base.  Much to our surprise they flew off the stand, virtually selling themselves.

So after spending the morning digging trenches, for the standing water to run off as many crops as possible, we decided a little comfort food would certainly help our stomachs, if not our dispositions.  Val, ever the baker was in charge of making the crust.  She prefers a focaccia recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day called: Pain a lAncienne Focaccia.  Alternatively, you can use your favorite focaccia or pizza dough recipe, but Reinhart’s is well worth the effort!  Thankfully, Val had a bowl of dough rising in the frig already.  His method for refrigerator rising gives you the flexibility of using the dough anywhere from one to four days later.

The name pissaladiere may make you think of pizza, but it derives from the anchovy paste, pissala, that is sometimes stirred into the onions to intensify their flavor.  In this case, I prefer to place them in a criss-cross pattern on top of the onions.  If you are actually planning ahead you can caramelize the onions a day in  advance to stream-line assembly.  The onions themselves take time to caramelize and should not be rushed, as they take about an hour to turn into their delicious and savory selves.

Pissaladiere:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • About 12 good quality anchovies, packed in oil patted dry on paper towels
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • About 12 Nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

  1. Prepare focaccia or pizza dough on a jelly roll pan in a rectangular shape.  Keeping it as thin as possible.
  2. Place the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over low heat to coat the skillet evenly.  Toss the onions, thyme and bay leaf, stirring to coat everything with oil.  Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the onions turn a golden, caramelized color.
  3. Spread the onions over the dough, leaving an inch of crust around the rectangle.  Criss-cross the anchovies on top of the onions.
  4. Top with olives between the anchovies.
  5. Bake the pissaladiere about 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is golden.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sitting down to something as savory as a pissaladiere has served its purpose.  We are calmed by the scents in our kitchen, a glass of chilled white wine and the company of each other.

Food is our common ground, our universal experience.


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