Sweet and savory caramelized onion focaccia topped with blue cheese and bitter Italian greens.
I grew up eating a version of pizza made at neighborhood bakeries; long, doughy rectangles layered in wax paper, piled into a brown cardboard cake box and tied up with a piece of string.
After a few hours, the oil would seep through the layers of paper and make random stains on the bottom of the cardboard. We enjoyed it straight out of the box as a snack all through the day, especially during those times between lunch and dinner or to stave off hunger after school.
Unlike the crusty pie ordered hot from a pizzeria on a Friday night, it was best cold or at room temperature and topped simply with a thick layer of rich, reduced tomato sauce – and no cheese.
I always knew them as “pizza strips” and I didn’t connect the dots until years later that my favorite snack was a type of focaccia, with a distinctly Italian-American spin.
I still love pizza strips. They are very much a tradition in Southern New England although those family bakeries don’t populate the map as profusely as they once did. My kids chow on pizza strips when we visit my family in Rhode Island – there’s nothing like them in the Midwest where they live now.
The focaccia I’m presenting here – with its topping of sweet-savory caramelized onions, bitter greens, gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts – is only distantly related to the strips I described. It’s the base that bears a similarity; a basic pizza dough enriched with olive oil.
Check out this post from Almost Italian for an authentic take on pizza strips.
Also, Goat Cheese, Roasted Grape and Walnut Bruschette from A Little Saffron are a delicious inspiration.
caramelized onion focaccia with blue cheese and radicchio
Yield 8 slices
For this recipe I used Petite Tango, a curly, spicy lettuce I found in an assortment of heirloom greens at the grocery store. If you can't find it, use leaves from a head of chicory, escarole or frisee.
For focaccia dough:
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola or feta cheese
- 1/2 cup each shredded radicchio and escarole
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, yeast and oil in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup water.
- Mix on medium speed until dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Cover bowl loosely with a towel and let rest 5 minutes.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead dough for 1 minute – the dough should be fairly sticky but stretchy.
- Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. It can take anywhere from 2 -4 hours depending on the temperature of the room. Alternatively, cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, let the dough come to room temperature and let rise until doubled in bulk.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sugar and salt. Stir, then lower heat and cover the pan.
- Cook 15 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Uncover and continue cooking until the onions are deep brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Place the dough on an oiled 13 x 9-inch rimmed baking pan and spread the dough toward the edges of the pan – it will spring back and not quite reach. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.
- Gently dimple the dough while stretching with your fingers to evenly cover the pan the rest of the way. Bake 10 minutes.
- Distribute the onions over the top of the focaccia and bake another 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle the cheese, greens and walnuts over the onions and return to the oven; bake an additional 5 minutes to slightly melt the cheese and wilt the greens.
- Cut into serving pieces with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Serve warm or at room temperature.