Food elicits emotions, that’s a given….but can foods elicit facial expressions? For the queen of facial expressions, that’s a resounding yes. For some reason, I cannot, for the life of me, hide what I feel, and it’s always cemented on my face. Don’t ask me to lie, about anything, because it is not going to happen. Don’t want me to tell you what I really feel, unless you have no qualms in knowing. This can be very positive, though, because it’s easy to make me smile. Just give me a Thomas’s English muffin, which remind me of my grandmother, who used to feed me these for breakfast…”quieres un Tomas mufin?” she would ask, hovering over the breakfast counter, looking straight into my eyes with her loving expression as she watched me eat. Imagine my smiles when one of favorite cooking teachers, JJ, expressed his delight for said muffin.
I smiled, bigtime. Caramelized onions also make my eyes light up. So do anchovies (! – they’re totally underrated), briny salty olives, tomatoes, and olive oil. And when these are all put together, into a French-like pizza called pissaladiere, they just make me beam with happiness. This day in class, JJ made these for us while we worked on our cooking assignment for the day, probably to make us smile. “Come try these…..” he said as we all huddled over to him, grinning with satisfaction after sampling them.
These take you on a rollercoaster of deep flavors. By appearance they don’t really look like much, but they have an umami like quality with the onions, salty olives, and anchovies. They were so good, in fact, that we decided to make them in large quantities for our graduation ceremony, obviously because we wanted the people close to us to be happy too, too. Love, through food, is a language in and of itself. Isn’t that the best expression of love, anyway?
Adapted from Jean-Jacques Paimblanc
Notes: you can either serve these on an English muffin, or on store bought puff pastry. From the photos above, you can see that these were made in large quantities of puff pastry for our graduation, and it can really be made in any size you desire or that can fit on your baking pan. Cut it in the size you want, and proceed as directed with the recipe. If you are making a larger size, you might want to parbake the puff pastry for ten minutes before you finish it off in the oven to prevent the onions from scorching.
These make a wonderful appetizer, choose to serve them at a dinner party or get together because they keep well at room temperature.
Dont like anchovies? Don’t use them. But if you don’t like them….re-evaluate your reasons why! They are actually very, very delicious but have a terrible reputation. Poor anchovies….
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped anchovies, plus 8 whole anchovy filets (from 2 cans anchovies)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup black olives (choose to buy olives with pits in this case if you can, because they are much more flavorful than the typical pitted black olives although those are perfectly fine as well)
1 tomato, diced
6 english muffins, or one box puff pastry, for serving
Chopped parsley, to garnish
In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and add the sliced onions, lower the heat and cook for approximately one hour, stirring occasionally. Caramelizing onions takes a while and the time investment is worth it…don’t skimp on this step or try to rush. Keep them light brown and not dark. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the garlic and chopped anchovies, mix and cook for an additional five minutes and set mixture aside to cool.
Set your oven at 425 degrees F. If using puff pastry, cut into 3″ strips and set on an oiled or parchment paper lined baking sheet. (If using the muffins, pull them apart and set on the baking sheet – you will have 12.)
Spread the cooked onions in the center of each strip of puff pastry or muffin, leaving at least 1/2 inch clear on each edge.
Arrange the whole anchovies in a criss cross fashion and scatter the olives and diced tomatoes over the onions. Brush lightly with olive oil, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.