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Focaccia Mediterranea

October 23, 2009

Foccacia

One of my favorite things about my new life in Walla Walla is that I have plenty of time for elaborate cooking projects. I have long, lazy Saturdays and Sundays with no one to see and not very much to do, and I spend most of that time in the kitchen (or on the couch learning to crochet and watching Buffy). On weekend evenings I like to pick a recipe from one of the many cooking magazines that are taking over my house, something that looks elaborate and involves many steps, and spend a good two or three hours in the kitchen, kneading dough and roasting things and assembling and baking and then, happily, eating.

This particular piece of deliciousness, from La Cucina Italiana, took about three hours, although most of that time was spent watching a movie while I waited for dough to rise. And it was well worth the wait. The dough is easy and rolls out smoothly (though it could do with a teensy bit more flavor, which could be achieved by letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight, I suspect). Roasting peppers in my oven was an adventure, and the end product was excellent: yeasty and warm and full of flavor. Anytime you combine bread, vegetables, and cheese, I suspect it’s impossible to end up with something bad.

Rising dough

Lately I’ve been having great luck with yeast breads, which is a relief after my early mishaps in Walla Walla. I am far from being an excellent bread baker, but I’m getting there. And this recipe is a great one to start with if you’re not a big bread baker because it’s easy and the shaping aspect is very forgiving. I could not get the dough to stretch out quite enough to reach all the edges of my baking pan, but it was easy to fold the top layer and bottom layer together, so it all worked out just fine in the end.

Making stuffed foccacia

This is almost like a deep dish pizza, without the tomato sauce. It’s stuffed with mozzarella and sauteed escarole, and topped with sliced tomato and roasted pepper, and turns out wonderfully crusty. It would be a perfect accompaniment to a small salad or lentil soup. And if you can’t find good tomatoes this time of year, I suspect this would be equally delicious with a thin layer of tomato sauce or canned, diced tomatoes on top.

Focaccia Mediterranea
Adapted from La Cucina Italiana

For the dough:

  • 2 1/4 c. bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 c. warm water

For the filling and topping:

  • 1 bell pepper (I used green, but any color would work)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • approx. 3-4 T. olive oil, divided
  • about 4 c. chopped escarole
  • 3 T. parsley, finely chopped
  • about 3/4 c. grated mozzarella or provolone
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced, or about 1/3 c. tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water, and stir until the dough starts to come together. When most of the flour is incorporated, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Return it to the bowl (I usually clean out the bowl and spray a light layer of olive oil inside, but I don’t think you need to). Cover the bowl with a cloth and let sit in a warm-ish room to rise. The dough should double in size, which usually takes about an hour.

Meanwhile, roast the pepper over a gas burner or under a broiler, for about four or five minutes on each side. Once it’s blackened, let it sit to cool for about 15 minutes, then peel the blackened skin off, chop and de-seed. (You could totally buy roasted peppers in a jar and I wouldn’t tell anyone).

Mediterranean Foccacia, unbaked

Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s nice and hot, add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until the onion is soft and slightly translucent. Stir in the escarole a handful at a time, until it wilts, then stir in the parsley and a sprinkle of salt. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Mediterranean Foccacia

When the dough is risen, oil a 9-inch square baking pan. Divide the dough, taking about 2/3 of it for the bottom layer and the remaining 1/3 for the top. Roll the larger piece into a 10 inch by 10 inch square, and press it into the baking pan, making sure to press it into the corners. It doesn’t need to reach all the way to the top of each side.

Spread the sauteed escarole mixture over the layer of dough in the pan, and top with the grated cheese. Then roll out the remaining dough and use it to cover the escarole filling. Pinch the edges together to close it up.

Mediterranean Foccacia

Mix together about a tablespoon of oil with 1 tsp of water and a pinch of salt, and brush the mixture over the dough. Arrange the tomato and the roasted pepper on top and sprinkle with dried oregano. Now cover it with a dishtowel and let rise again, for about another hour.

Stuffed Foccacia

Heat the oven to 450F. Bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes. When the crust is golden brown, remove it from the oven. Use a spatula to gently lift the focaccia out of the pan, and let it cool on a wire rack for at least five minutes, if you can. I’m not sure I did wait, honestly, it smelled so incredible. And it made for excellent leftovers, as it reheats easily in a toaster oven in just a few minutes.

This was such an excellent weekend cooking project, I can’t wait to try it again, and to experiment with different fillings and different toppings. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments! What kinds of fillings would you try?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 24, 2009 11:03 am

    This sounds incredible and so versatile. I’d love to do it with any number of vegetables, or maybe some prosciutto…

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