On Meatless Monday, Embracing the Onion at Pizza Lounge

Onion haters.  You probably know at least one, or maybe you are one. Onion-phobia seems to be one of the most common food aversions out there. I often overhear the request "no onions" when I'm dining out -- they get excluded from burgers, segregated from sandwiches, and picked off pizza.  

Little do these poor souls know that onions (along with their deliciously pungent and seemingly less despised cousin garlic) are the basis for practically every single dish they consume, be it at a restaurant or in someone's home.  Stocks, sauces, risotto, curries, stews, stir-fries -- indeed, a large percentage of dishes from almost every culture contain onions, or garlic, leeks, scallions, shallots, or even ramps, that newest, trendiest member of the allium family that's turning up at farm-to-table restaurants everywhere.

Besides contributing so much Magical Deliciousness® to the culinary world, the allium family has also long been recognized for its health benefits. In addition to being used in Eastern medicine to treat coughs and bacterial infections, modern studies have shown they may be useful in preventing cardiovascular disease, particularly because they reduce the risk of developing blood clots. They've also shown to be effective in the prevention of stomach cancer and can even improve lung function, especially in persons with asthma. The World Health Organization supports use of onions to treat poor appetite; I don't know about you, but the smell of sautéing onions always gets my salivary glands going.

While they usually serve a subordinate role, we shouldn't forget that they're perfectly suited to a starring role once in a while.  (French onion soup, anyone?)  And much to the chagrin of the people who have to converse with me face-to-face, I discovered a tasty dish that puts these members of the lily family in the spotlight: the No Smoochies pie at Pizza Lounge.  Yes, the name is really stupid, but the combination of sautéed yellow and raw red onions, roasted garlic and leeks (plus some artichoke hearts for good measure) is worth the number it does on my breath.  The mixture of fresh and cooked species gives the pie a rich array of flavors that pingpong around in your mouth: sweet, pungent, sharp, spicy, all brought together with hot gooey mozzarella and a better-than-most crisp, airy crust.

This pizza doesn't need pepperoni or sausage or -- gasp -- even bacon.  It needs only a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to up the spice to sinus-clearing levels, and maybe a beer -- I like a nice brown ale -- to wash it down.  Although they (unfortunately) don't deliver anymore, Pizza Lounge is open till 3 a.m. most nights to fulfill your veggie pizza needs.  (And if you're one of those poor souls so averse to the glorious onion, they have plenty of other plant-centric options, including the aptly named Nickel Bag topped with a veritable shit-ton of baby spinach and broccoli.  There's even vegan Daiya cheese available.)

Just don't forget the mouthwash afterward.

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Whitney Filloon