summer flatbreads, part one: fennel & pomegranate-caramelized onions

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What’s that you say? You’re gearing up to stay in your apartment, glued to the television and unsure of when your next grocery store run will be? You need a meal idea that’s easy to prep, versatile, and suitable for feeding a small or a large gathering? Whether you’re weathering a hurricane somewhere on the Eastern seaboard, hosting a summer dinner party, or watching the Egyptian revolution (redux) from the safety of your Cairo apartment, these summer flatbreads are for you.

This post will outline the basic approach & recipe for the lightest crispiest easiest summer flatbreads ever. They bake fast, minimizing time spent in the oven during summer months, and you can throw anything on them, so they’re the epitome of easy and seasonal. Eat one as a meal; split with a friend with a beer; cut into small pieces for party hors d’oeuvres. Do whatever you want, because it’s summer and the world could end tomorrow. 

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Flatbreads with Pomegranate-Caramelized Onions, Anise & Parmesan

The inspiration for this recipe begins with a Smitten Kitchen classic as well as a jar of beautiful amazing French saffron-laced mustard (yes you read that right, be jealous) that was given to me by my dear friend Sarah (whose gorgeous blog is a must-read). But the key, the key I say, is the use of pomegranate molasses. If you can’t find any, I suggest improvising with a pomegranate juice reduction mixed with a bit of honey and balsamic vinaigrette. You want: tart, sweet, rich, fruity, fragrant.

The real (no the real, real) secret to this recipe is Moroccan (obviously) – the base crust recipe is the most simple basic Moroccan flatbread brought to you by the amazing Christine Benlafquih.

For two medium-pizza-sized-ish flatbreads, you will need:

For the crust:

4 cups white flour
2 cups semolina and/or wheat flour
2 T plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 T vegetable oil
1 T yeast (or one standard packet)
About 2 cups of hot water (how hot? almost but not quite too hot to touch. Like after 10 seconds of touching it’s too hot. that’s how hot)

For the topping:
6 onions, sliced thinly
Olive oil/butter
A spoonful of sugar
2-3 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses (from Syria is best. If not from Syria, from Lebanon is best)
2 tablespoons of fennel seeds
4 tablespoons of fancy mustard of your choice
1.5 cups grated Parmesan

First things first: caramelizing onions takes some time, so let’s start with that.

The first thing you’ll do is heat up a pat of butter and a swirl (generous) of olive oil in a good saucepan. When it starts to sizzle, toss in your fennel seeds and toast for a minute or two on medium-high. Then add in your onions. Once they begin to turn translucent, add a spoonful of sugar and turn the heat down. Set a timer for 20 minutes. At the 20 minute mark you’ll add in the pomegranate molasses, but in the meantime, just stir occasionally and make sure they aren’t burning.

While that’s happening, time to make some dough. Proof your yeast by mixing it with a cup of water and a spoonful of sugar. If it doesn’t foam away after five minutes or so it’s bad and sorry, you have to go get more yeast.

In the meantime, mix all the other dough ingredients (except the water) in a large bowl. Then add in the foamy yeast mixture and mix in with a wooden spoon. Gradually add about another cup of water; eventually the dough will come together and you can start kneading it by hand. Do this for at least ten minutes (put on a few good songs – don’t cheat yourself. Kneading is the key). Your dough should be satiny and elastic but not sticky – adjust by adding more flour or more water as needed.

Once the dough is well-kneaded, divide it into six balls. Each of these will produce a medium-pizza-sized crust. Use two for this recipe and stash the others in the freezer (flash-freeze them first: oil them with olive or vegetable oil very lightly, then place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they’ve gotten good and solid, after a few hours, you can toss them all in a Ziplock together and they won’t stick. And now you are ready to serve flatbread at a moment’s notice! You’re welcome).

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Cover the two balls of dough you’ll be using with a bit of oil (this helps keep them from drying out) and a damp dishtowel. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. It shouldn’t be too long before your onions are done. Once they’ve started to properly caramelize (some tips for caramelizing onions here) and soak up that pomegranate goodness, go ahead and taste test them. This is very important: you’ll probably need to add some sugar at this point. The onions shouldn’t be too sour-pomegrante-y. It’s essential that they have a sweetness to them, because everything else in this recipe has plenty of salt. While you’re playing with the flavor and getting it just right, roll out your dough into whatever shape you wish. It should be as thin as you can get it. Sprinkle a baking sheet or try with a bit of semolina (this will help keep it from sticking) and toast the crust in the oven for just five minutes.

Remove, flip your crust over, and spread mustard on your crust. Once your onions are done, distribute them evenly on top, and then sprinkle the whole thing with your Parmesan.

Return your almost-masterpiece into the oven. It shouldn’t need more than ten more minutes, but monitor to make sure it doesn’t burn. You want the edges crispy and the center baked through.

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Pomegranate molasses and caramelized onions. This is it, my friends. This is it.

2 thoughts on “summer flatbreads, part one: fennel & pomegranate-caramelized onions

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