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Last week I got together with a bunch of friends to start planning our upcoming trip to France.  This fall almost twenty of us will descend upon Bordeaux for a week of touring, wine tasting, eating and hanging out around our Château.  This party was to share information, introduce those who didn’t know each other and basically just to start the eating and drinking now. :-)
To get us in the proper mood everyone brought a bottle of Bordeaux and an appetizer – preferably something French.  I had planned to make Pissaladiere, which is kind of a French version of pizza.  I planned to make it from the ground up – dough and all.  When I started to make it last week I suddenly realized I must have lost my mind at some point during the day as there was no way I had enough time to make the dough – what was I thinking?  So I decided to defrost a sheet of puff pastry and use it as the base instead.  Well, once it was defrosted I realized that I didn’t even have time to cook the onions down properly!  So I scrapped the whole idea and went with something I could get out in the time I had left. 
In the meantime, I now had a defrosted sheet of puff pastry and all the ingredients for the Pissaladiere.  So this weekend – on a day I had lots of time – I decided to make it.  This was really great with the puff pastry base! A little goes a long way as the richness of that buttery crust and the pure sweetness of the cooked down onions is so satisfying! 
It’s perfect with a glass of wine (and would go well with a beer or any cocktail) and holds well overnight so it would be a nice addition to a party menu.  This is very similar to the onion tart that I’ve made in the past.  The main differences are in how the onions are cooked, there’s no cheese and this version includes the nice salty taste of anchovies and olives. 
    • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted but still chilled
    • Olive oil
    • 2 1/2 – 3 pounds yellow onions (I used the sweet onions that are currently available)
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 2 sprigs of fresh Marjoram (about 6" long)
    • 1 sprig of fresh Rosemary (about 6" long)
    • Anchovy paste
    • 1/3 cup niçoise olives
    • Optional:  12 Anchovy filets (I used 4 and cut them into small pieces)

Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil to a large frying pan and place over medium-low heat.  Slice the onions very thinly and add to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the springs of marjoram and rosemary.  Cover the pan with a lid and let the onions slowly simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove the lid from the pan and continue cooking until the moisture has evaporated and the onions have cooked down to a marmalade-like consistency, an additional 30 minutes or so.  The onions will become a golden color.  Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the stems from the herb sprigs.

Preheat the oven to 450°.   

On a floured board roll out the puff pastry to a very thin sheet – you should have about a 10"x14" rectangle.  Place the pastry on a baking sheet. 

Spread a thin layer of anchovy paste over the dough.  Spread onion mixture over the anchovy paste.  Arrange the olives* and anchovies (if using) over the onions.

Bake for about 20 minutes until crust is golden-brown.  Remove from the oven, cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

* Niçoise olives are rather small and a bit difficult to pit.  I chose not to as I was the only one eating this over the weekend.  And, oddly enough the recipe did not specify to pit them and the photo looked like they were whole.  Once cooked they pits come out easily but you will need to warn your guests!  Or, if you’d like to pit them before, I find that dipping olives in boiling water for just 30 seconds or so soften them enough that the pits are easier to remove.     

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