Tuesday, November 4, 2008
FINALLY, it's election day! I think we can all agree that this election season has been nothing short of a trial by ordeal; everyone I know has been describing their mindset as a sort of free-floating, pervasive sense of angst und furcht for the past several months. But I just came home from voting and am feeling ridiculously optimistic: the sun is shining, it's a lovely morning, and all's relatively right with the world, especially since by this time tomorrow we'll have a new president, and I'm cautiously optimistic it will actually be the one for whom I voted (for a change).
Complex times like ours demand complexly yummy foodstuffs, so I give you last night's Election Eve dinner, leftovers from which I'm about to eat for breakfast because it was Just That Good. In Harvard Square is a perfectly charming bistro called Sandrine's, where the signature dish is "tarte flambée," or "flammekueche." It's basically an Alsatian pizza, consisting of flatbread with a variety of toppings; they look and smell delightful, but unfortunately, the toppings usually involve butter, cheese, meat, or that old standby: butter-and-cheese-covered meat.
So when I saw the recipe below in the NY Times Sunday Magazine a few weeks ago, it lodged in my head as a way I might approach this seductive dish, since it's basically a Provencal analogue, hailing from a region where things tend to involve olive oil rather than butter. As is my wont, I made a few adaptations: subbing whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, replacing the anchovies in the original with sun-dried tomatoes, and increasing the quantity of onions, olives, and seasonings. The result was so beautiful, so delicious, so somehow, ineffably French, that it's destined to become Company Food. Try it with something like a nice glass of Cotes du Rhone, and let the chill of November election anxiety melt away: tomorrow is a new day!
~ 1 1/4 oz. active dry yeast (1 little packet)
~ 1 cup lukewarm water
~ 1 tbsp. agave nectar (or sugar)
~ 2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and agave/sugar in the lukewarm water. Add 1 cup of the flour and stir to combine. Allow to rest for 15 minutes until the batter looks a bit foamy.
~ Add the salt and the remaining flour bit by bit, until the dough is too stiff to stir.
~ Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth. You may need to add a bit more flour if it's too sticky to handle.
~ Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into the bowl, then return the dough to it, flipping it over so it's coated.
~ Cover and set aside to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
~ Punch the dough down, replace the cover and allow to rise another hour.
~ Turn it out onto the floured surface again, and roll it out into a rough rectangle that will fit a baking sheet (about 11"x14").
~ Grease the baking sheet and place the dough on it, pressing it into place with your hands and making a ridge of dough around the edges.
~ Set the dough aside to rest for another 15 minutes.
~ 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 big yellow onions, sliced into thin crescents (about 5 cups when sliced)
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
~ 1 tsp. each kosher salt, thyme, tarragon, parsley
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1 cup black olives, pitted and halved (or sliced, if you prefer)
~ 1/2 cup chopped, sun-dried tomatoes
~ Dried basil
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium and add the onions.
~ Cook the onions for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic, drained tomatoes and seasonings. Stir well to combine and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and allow to cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
~ Remove the lid, raise the heat to high, and cook 5-10 minutes more, until most of the liquid is gone and the onions are caramelized and beauteous. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool a bit.
~ Spread the caramelized onion mixture all over the crust, then top with the olives, sun dried tomatoes and the merest sprinkling of basil.
~ Set aside for 15 minutes while your oven preheats to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to rest about 15 minutes more (lots of things in this recipe take 15 minutes, go figure) before serving, ideally with lemony roasted asparagus, sauteed mushrooms and/or a nice green salad. Oh, and red wine!