TRADITIONAL ROSEMARY AND GARLIC FOCACCIA
Previously I posted a recipe for Focaccia Bread (http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=focaccio), but I think this one is even better because it uses more olive oil and lots of fresh herbs. If you don't have fresh you can always substitute dried herbs. This ancient Italian bread dates back to the Estruscan period, although some believe it may have been invented by the Greeks. However, the Estruscans, Romans, and Greeks were so intertwined back in the 8th - 6th century BC it's hard to tell where recipes originated. It's also thought to be the precursor to modern-day Italian pizza as it is a flatbread with lots of leeway for toppings. As with so many recipes I find online I have doctored this one a bit with more herbs and more garlic.
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil*
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 3 tsp. dried
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary or 3 tsp. dried
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp. honey or a tsp. of sugar
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
*This time the extra-virgin is important as olive oil is a dominant flavor in this bread. You don't have to buy a super expensive oil, just one you really like the taste of.
MAKE THE DOUGH:
In a cold medium skillet, combine olive oil, minced garlic, thyme, rosemary and the black pepper. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes or until aromatic, but before browning garlic. Set aside.
Add 1 cup of flour and a 1/4 cup of the infused garlic/herb/olive oil mixture to the bowl with the yeast and honey. Stir 3 to 4 times until the flour has moistened. Let sit for another 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour and the salt. I like to use the dough hooks on my hand mixture as it shortens the kneading time necessary because the hooks act somewhat like the kneading process getting air pockets out and stimulating gluten process resulting in a light, fluffy dough. Because focaccia is a flatbread the crust becomes crisp and interior is moist and soft.
When the dough comes together, transfer to a floured board and knead 10-15 minutes until very smooth in texture. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a warm, damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. You want to keep the dough out of drafts so consider rising in your oven (with no heat on).
|This is the dough after rising for an hour.|
Drizzle the top with remaining garlic/herb/olive mixture.
Let the dough rise until it puffs slightly; about 15-20 minutes. Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and if you like sprinkle with course sea salt and a little freshly chopped rosemary. Cool baked focaccia on wire rack. Cut into 2 inch squares. This bread freezes well for up to a month.
Here's a twist on another Italian favorite...
ITALIAN MEATBALLS WITH HERBS AND RICOTTA
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground turkey
4 oz. (1/2 cup)whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley (I used curly as that's what I have growing.)
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 medium onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
4 Tbsp. finely grated pecorino (I used parmesan.)
1 slice bacon, finely minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil (My addition.)
1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning (My addition.)
1 large egg
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Freshy ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cups homemade or jarred quality marinara sauce
Fresh basil for garnishing
Mix ground meats and diced bacon, ricotta, parsley, panko crumbs, onion, pecorino, bacon, garlic milk, thyme, egg, salt, Worcestershire and black pepper. Here is my trick. Meatballs become tough if they are overmixed so thoroughly mix all ingredients listed above, except the ground meats. Then add the ground meats and using your hands gently mix until just combined. The mixture is pretty soft.
Using your hands, gently form mixture into 1 Tbsp. small meatballs (make smaller balls if serving as an hors d'oeuvres or larger balls for a dinner entre). Put the raw meatballs on a large plate or tray.
I'm going to close today with the simplest Italian hors d'oeuvres you will ever make. Why I have not made these sooner I do not know, but recently had them at our annual tennis party made by my good friend and tennis buddy Claren Scott. They are fantastic.
|Here's Claren off the tennis court!|
She looks like a movie star!
PARMESAN CRISPS, aka FRICOS!
I made my fricos totally plain since I've never made them before, but next time might try adding:
Lemon zest and fresh basil
Finely chopped rosemary
Hot sauce or lots of black pepper
Claren added a small piece of salami in the center of each frico. Delicious!
That's it for today.
I'm getting very excited about the Easter holiday,
which is only a week away. I've been working on
my menu, which also has an Italian theme.
I will share it with you next week.
UNTIL THEN...BUON APPETITO!