My college kids are home for the weekend, so it’s an eat-a-thon at House Morell. Though most kids go off to college and gain weight, Luke is not coping well with the dining hall food, and has lost 15 pounds. Trust me, this is a kid who did not have 15 pounds to lose. He reports he can now wear sweatpants under his jeans, and they are still loose. So I’m on a mission to feed the boy – if only for a couple of days.
We had some friends over last night, and I put together a delicious, but insanely high-calorie meal, heavy in carbs. Lasagna, salad, this amazing focaccia bread to start, and chocolate waffles with salted caramel ice cream for dessert. A rare and wonderful break from the grim offerings at the University dining hall.
Honestly, I’m not usually one to bake bread, but I’ve been reading a lot of food blogs lately, trying to learn a thing or two from the best writers and photographers out there – Lord knows I have a lot to learn. I stumbled upon this Roasted Garlic and Cilantro Bread on the Playful Cooking website. Kakana, who specializes in amazing Indian cooking, made it sound so easy to make this naan/focaccia style offering that I’ve been hankering to try something like it ever since – though I’m not a fan of cilantro. I thought I’d try my hand at a similar focaccia to complement my Italian offerings last night.
I turned to the Food Network website to find a rock solid focaccia base, and Tyler Florence didn’t disappoint. His five-star offering was a snap to make.
I thought a combination of caramelized onions finished with a bit of thyme would be a nice base… with a generous sprinkle of goat cheese. Then I covered the whole thing with a my latest spice obsession (Thanks to the Jerusalem cookbook) – Zahtar. This is a blend of sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, salt and oregano – and is fantastic combined with olive oil and bread.
Luke inhaled three or four pieces of the stuff, so I deemed it a success. Back to the dining hall on Monday, though – I wonder: How it would do in a care package?
Focaccia with Carmelized Onions, Goat Cheese and Zahtar
(adapted from a recipe from Tyler Florence on the Food Network)
- 2 teaspoons rapid-rising dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- 2 generous tablespoons zahtar
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and slowly add the flour to the bowl. Dissolve salt in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn’t form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise over a gas pilot light on the stovetop or other warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and corn meal. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick. Lay the flattened dough on the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, coat a small saute pan with olive oil, add the onion, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until the onions caramelize. Add a teaspoon of thyme, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, then cook for another few minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Uncover the dough and dimple with your fingertips. Brush the surface with more olive oil and then sprinkle the caramelized onions, cheese all over the surface of the dough. Then generously sprinkle the zahtar all over the bread. Bake on the bottom rack for 15 to 20 minutes.