When I was in college at Indiana University I paid my tuition and rent working a couple nights a week at a legendary pizza place, Mother Bear’s Pizza Barn. (This was back in the days when tuition and rent were much more reasonable than they are today.) Mother Bear’s was a great place to work. The pizza was good, the tips were decent (for a college town) and best of all, my fellow employees were a blast to work with.
Back then, the trendiest pizzas were thick-crusted and loaded with lots of ingredients. Deep dish, “Sicilian-style” pizzas were a specialty at Mother Bear’s. The deluxe versions included about six or seven ingredients. These pizzas were so heavy that one or two pieces made a meal.
For a while now, pizza trends have been moving toward simplicity. Thin crust is where it’s at these days, and creativity is king. For example, not every pizza needs to be covered in mozzarella anymore. Even tomato sauce is on the chopping block. One local restaurant, Vertical Pizza, has an all-you-can eat night with choices as surprising as carrot butter pizza, taco pizza and pad thai pizza.
Today’s Meatless Monday recipe honors the simple pizza tradition. I found the recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I was hesitant to try it at first because without tomato sauce or pesto as a base, I thought it would be dry. But my trust in this classic cookbook is unwavering, so I tried it. I’m glad I did. The slow-cooked onions provide plenty of moisture, and the results were excellent.
Part of the reason I loved it so much is that I love onions, especially caramelized red onions. As far as I’m concerned, onions merit a separate food group. The herbs in this pizza help counter the sweetness of the onions. If you like parmesan cheese you can add that for further umami balance. Without the cheese, the pizza is totally vegan.
For this pizza I used dough from Epicurean Chefs in Salt Lake City. Much as I love to make pizza crust, this is just really easy and the results are excellent. Whole Foods also makes an excellent pizza dough.
Meatless Monday: Caramelized Onion Pizza
- 2 red onions, cut in quarters, peeled and sliced in 1/2-inch slices
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (I used a combination of rosemary and thyme)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 pizza crust
- Heat the oil in a wide sauté pan.
- When the oil is hot (medium heat), add the onions and stir to coat them with oil.
- Turn down heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, until onions begin to caramelize. Covering the onions will keep them moist.
- Preheat oven to 500°.
- Roll out pizza dough onto a 15-inch round pan or 10 x 14-inch sheet pan. I sprinkle cornmeal on the bottom of the pan and the top of the dough to avoid stickiness while I’m rolling it out. The dough doesn’t have to reach all the way to the edges of the pan, but do make sure the edges aren’t too thick to avoid your pizza crust being bready. Your crust doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical.
- When onions are cooked, add the salt and vinegar and stir to coat. Add herbs. Turn off heat.
- Spread the onion mixture out on the dough so that it reaches within an 1/2-inch to an inch of the border.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust begins to brown.