Time seems to spin by more quickly in these shortened days of winter. I always feel like I need a lot more sleep to balance the increased darkness. More time in the light, too, though that is hard to come by just now. The weather has changed. We had what felt like (and may well have been) weeks of cold clear days, when frost lay heavy until almost noon and goldenrose light painted the sides of buildings and even the sidewalks. Mornings were cold and clear and crystalline in that winter way, all streaks and puffs of pink clouds and golden light spilling over everything from far away. Now the weather has softened into rain, clouded pthalo and lilac sky lit up by the city at night. These dark winter evenings are perhaps best spent close to the stove, stirring, chopping, filling the baseboard cool of the house with warm fragrance. Last night the wind roared and threw itself at our small house. From the darkness of our bed in the morning hours I could still hear it howling in from the ocean and I knew then that it had blown all night, tossing and turning through my dreams.
I felt productive this weekend, mainly because I roasted more tomatoes and had the inspired plan to caramelize onions in the oven at the same time. It worked brilliantly, beautifully. I know this because I couldn't stop eating them this morning. They are velvety, jammy, savory and sweet. We planted onions this spring and ended up with a lot of them come harvest time. I'm pretty happy about this. However, there were a few that didn't cure well that had begun to go a bit mushy. I decided that since I had the oven on at 275° for the next five hours anyway, I may as well put some onions in. I sliced the good parts of five or so of such onions thickly and tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil in a pyrex dish. Nothing makes me tear up like these homegrown onions (not quite true, but they are certainly tear inducing). I think I stirred them twice over the course of the evening, and by the end of the cooking time they were very soft and lightly browned. I turned off the oven and left them to stew overnight. In the morning they were perfect. I added a touch of thyme-infused sea salt, and ended up snacking on a few spoonfuls before breakfast.
Because I wanted to eat more caramelized onions and because I was pretty hungry, I concocted a salad which made use of a few generous forkfuls.
September Salad with beets, caramelized onions and pecans
I didn't measure anything because I wasn't planning on writing about it, but it turned out so good that you will have to accept my approximations until I make it again, and adjust it to taste. I thought about dressing the salad, but I'm glad that I didn't because the oil from the onions coated everything nicely.
⋅ ~ 4 leaves kale, washed, stemmed, kneaded til bright green and cut into ribbons ⋅ several handfuls diced cooked beets (I used cold beets but warm would probably be lovely as well) ⋅ several forkfuls caramelized onion (and I do mean full) ⋅ soft cheese, crumbled (I used fromage frais, but a creamy feta would also be nice, such as Doric Macedonian Feta - Elise I silently thank you every time I find myself in possession of a bucket of the stuff) ⋅ a smallish handful of pecans, hand crushed and toasted over medium heat = Assemble and eat.
Occasionally we do a great job of planning our meals in advance and it results in tasty things like homemade pizza. You'd think that would be incentive for us to get organized more often. We're getting there.
Overnight Sourdough Whole Wheat Pizza Dough adapted somewhat wildly from Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb
1 c white bread flour (I used Roger's Organic) 2 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (I used Schmidt Organic) 1 cup sourdough starter (hopefully you have some on hand, if not, find a friend or a bakery who is willing to share, or start some yourself but realize it takes time to develop) 1/4 cup sugar (I used Sucanat, a deliciously unrefined cane sugar) 1/4 tsp salt (I used Le Paludier French grey sea salt) 4 tbsp butter (I used salted because that is what I had) 1 egg (from a happy free -ranging chicken) 1 cup milk (I used Avalon organic whole milk) 1/2 cup water Olive oil for oiling bowl (I used organic extra virgin)
Mixing: Combine all ingredients (except olive oil) in the bowl of a Kitchenaid stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 10-12 minutes, sparingly adjusting for moisture if necessary with water or flour. The dough should be slightly soft and tacky and should pass the windowpane test when done (gently tug a corner and try to stretch it so you can see through it- if it rips mix it more and if it stretches it's ready). If mixing by hand, stir ingredients together in a bowl and then knead for 12-15 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
Rise: Lightly oil a clean bowl with the olive oil and place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour, until it noticeably swells.
Divide: Turn dough onto a lightly floured counter and cut in half. Round each piece.
Rest: Lightly oil either the dough rounds or the insides of two plastic bags. Place dough in bags leaving room for it to expand (it will grow more than you think in the fridge), and then place in fridge for at least 1 hour but preferably overnight (dough can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours).
Preheat oven to 550° F or as hot as possible. If you have a pizza stone, put that it before preheating. If you don't have a pizza stone but do have a spare large sheet pan, invert that and place it in the oven before preheating.
Roll: On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to desired shape and thickness. Put on pans or a cornmeal-dusted peel (or makeshift peel - I use either a wooden cutting board or an inverted sheet pan as a peel. Also it doesn't need to be cornmeal but be sure to dust the peel with something so the pizza slides off okay). Make a fancy crust if you like. Sauce and top according to personal preference (we used organic pizza sauce, roasted garlic, veggies from our garden and shredded mozzarella).
Bake: Slide into the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and golden and the cheese is bubbly and golden.