Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

This nutrient dense soup is packed with umami and has a gorgeous color for a delicious, satisfying vegan meal. I could just as easily have called it a stew – it is that thick and hearty! While I might be a bit sad to see the days getting shorter, I always look forward to wearing my fall clothes and eating the wonderful variety of winter squashes and root vegetables. And unlike summer squashes, having winter squashes is like having money in the bank. Kept in a cool, dry place, they will last for weeks or even months. They really were a saving grace during the worst of the pandemic when we tried to only shop once every few weeks.

It’s true that it can often be dreary outside at this time of year, but our food can still be filled with color and flavor. This Winter Squash Lentil Soup has everything going for it in a one-pot meal. Add some bread and maybe a nice glass of wine or some herbal tea and happily call it dinner. Though I would never eschew a nice green salad, it isn’t actually necessary. The kale, chard or spinach that is added at the end will give you more than enough greens and is a beautiful contrast to the bright orange of the squash, carrots and turmeric.

I came across a recipe that looked appealing when I was surfing for ways to use up some lovely squashes I had picked up at the farmers’ market.

Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Nowadays, of course, many large supermarkets also have a good variety of winter squashes available. And I make a delicious curried butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving. But I had never thought about adding lentils before. As I have mentioned in several posts, my husband and I are eating a largely vegetarian diet these days, although we have no plans to give up meat altogether. It does mean, though, that I try to be very conscious of adding in plant protein whenever I can.

The original recipe looked good to me but I wanted to make some changes – as is my wont. So below is the recipe as I made it and it’s wonderful. However, while I used Red Kuri Squash, just about any other orange-fleshed squash would work here. Butternut, carnival or pumpkin squashes all would be delicious. I also chose to go with a chana dal or yellow split pea rather than the green or brown lentils called for in the original. Part of the reason was to maintain that gorgeous color, but I also love that the chana dal maintains its bite even with a long cooking. I always use it 50/50 in my green split pea soup for that reason. If you don’t have them, pretty much any lentil will do.

Not only can you control or adapt the soup to what you have on hand, but you can also decide if you are going for a mellow curried flavor or one that is more spicy. And if you don’t like peanut butter, you can substitute cashew butter or even almond butter. Fall and winter not only bring out the beautiful squashes but also the heartier greens. Dino or lacinato kale, Swiss chard in all of its varieties, collards, mustard or turnip greens. I happen to love beet greens, but it is difficult to come across really nice ones where I live and many grocery stores actually throw them out before they are ever seen by customers.

This hearty soup comes together pretty quickly, making it a nice anytime soup. And while it is rare for me to buy pre-chopped squash, if you are really in a pinch for time, many grocery stores do offer that option. Winter Squash and Lentil Soup can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just gently warm it and add the greens before serving, allowing them to just wilt.

This is a soup to enjoy throughout the fall and winter. It will banish the drears away.

Recipe

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Winter Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon oil (Canola, coconut or EVOO)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 Tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped – about 2 cups

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or diced

1 winter squash, about 2 pounds, peeled and cubed (about 6 cups)

1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder (hot or not or a mix)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 15 ounce can of coconut milk – full fat, preferably

4 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of chana dal or yellow split peas (green or brown lentils will work but the color won’t be as lovely), rinsed well and sorted. If your lentils are older, give them an overnight soak. Drain them before using.

3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter without any sugar – smooth or chunky

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

2 good handfuls of baby spinach or kale

Optional Garnishes

Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Chopped roasted peanuts or cashews

Sing Bhujia Masala Peanuts

Chakri

Fresh lime

Directions

Add the oil of choice to a largish pot or Dutch oven. Heat to medium high and add the chopped onions and salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the turmeric powder and curry powder and stir through for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.

Now add the squash, carrot, lentils, garlic and ginger and stir everything well, coating all of the veg with the spices.

Stir in the coconut milk, peanut butter and vegetable broth. Mix well and add in the cracked black pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil, then partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

If you are making this ahead, allow the soup to cool a bit. Using an immersion blender, partially blend the soup. You want to still see some of the chunks of squash. This can also be done in a standing blender. In that case, only blend about 3 cups. Be VERY careful if the soup is hot. Cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel and do not overfill the blender. Start on a low speed to prevent the hot liquid exploding out the top.

Just before you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is hot and add in your greens of choice. Depending on the kind of greens you are using, they may take as little as 3 minutes to wilt (spinach) to more like 20 minutes (collards). I used a Dino kale (lacinato kale) and gave it about 8 minutes. Garnish and enjoy! Leftovers can be refrigerated and will last about a week.

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup is the cure for the autumn drears that I need NOW! Easy comfort food in a single pot. Fall can be the most beautiful season. The trees are sporting their colorful adornment before the leaves dance off until the spring. The days can be beautifully crisp and clear, making walks in forest preserves a delight. OR, it can be grey, dreary and damp like it has been this whole week, making getting out of bed a major achievement.

These are the days that make me hunker down, burying my head in a good book with a pot of delicious soup bubbling on the stove. This easy Lasagna Soup gives me everything I need to conquer the drears. And it can be vegan or beefy and cheesy or something in between, made with ground turkey. With just a few swaps (included below) this comforting soup can make anyone happy. I mean, who doesn’t love a good lasagna – in a fraction of the time?!

I love a good lasagna and my mother made one of the best. But even with the no-boil lasagna pasta now available, it’s still a bit of a production. This soup won’t replace lasagna when I have the time and inclination to make it, but it definitely gives me a lot of that satisfaction in a much easier, quicker format.

When deciding to make this soup, I checked out a bunch of different recipes. It’s one of those things that wasn’t there a week ago and now is EVERYWHERE. Since most of the ingredients are pantry staples, it’s the kind of thing that can be made without a run to the grocery store. And thanks to the pandemic, don’t most of us have great pantries and a few things like ground beef, turkey or vegan crumbles in our freezers?

So if you are ready to rise above the autumn drears or simply just want a bowl of warming comfort, give this a try.

Recipe

Lasagna Soup

Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients

Lasagna Soup

1 Tablespoon of EVOO

1 large yellow onion, peeled and medium diced

2 to 4 garlic cloves (I use 4), peeled and minced

4 cups of broth (Vegan, chicken or beef)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

24-ish ounces of marinara sauce OR 24 to 28 ounces of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

1.5 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil, onion powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper or to taste

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

13 ounces (390 g) soy veggie crumbles or vegan ground “meat” or 1 pound of ground beef or turkey

About 3 cups of roughly diced fresh mushrooms (button, baby bellas or cremini (They lend umami and great mouthfeel, especially if you are going with the vegan version.)

8 to 10 ounces of dried lasagna or Gigli pasta

About 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach (Optional but recommended) or thawed frozen spinach with extra liquid squeezed out

Lasagna Soup

Optional Garnishes

If you are not making this vegan, you can add a dollop of ricotta cheese or parmigiana before serving.

Ribbons or torn fresh basil leaves or chopped flat-leaf parsley

A few chili flakes if you want this spicier

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until just becoming golden, about 7 minutes. If the onion seems to be sticking you can add a splash of water or red wine to deglaze.

Once the onion is golden, add the garlic, tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. (If using, you could also add the chili flakes here instead of as a garnish.)

Next add the ground meat or meat substitute along with the mushrooms, if using and cook for about 5 minutes or until much of the mushroom moisture evaporates. The mushrooms add a “meatiness” of their own. My mushrooms were very fresh and actually had almost no additional moisture, so I cooked them down enough to just begin to soften.

Lasagna Soup

Add the marinara sauce or canned tomatoes, vinegar and the broth. Bring everything to a boil and then add the noodles. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the noodles are al dente. Stir in the spinach until wilted, if using. Remove from the heat, garnish and enjoy! A great crusty garlic bread or focaccia and some nice red wine wouldn’t go amiss.

NOTES:

This recipe will produce a wonderful cross between a thick soup and a saucy pasta. If you have left-overs, you likely will need to add some liquid when you go to reheat it. We are not vegan so I did serve the soup with some real cheese. However, I have been googling and there are a number of pretty simple recipes for all kinds of vegan cheeses should you wish to go that route and they are not readily available in your local stores. Some are made with cashews and others with soy milk. Some day, simply out of curiosity, I may try one or two.

SD* Chickpea Burger

SD* Chickpea Burger

SD* Chickpea Burger works. The SD* stands for “simply delicious.” I love a good vegan burger. It’s not as a substitute for a meat burger. But as a delicious canvas for toppings, enjoyed in its own right. This SD* Chickpea Burger delivers. Unlike many bean burgers, this one gets beautifully crispy on the outside and does not fall apart with a mushy center when you bite into it. There are just four ingredients to the burger and they are pantry staples. What you do about the toppings is between you – and you!

The method used here is the same one used to make great falafel. Chickpeas are given a long soak, generally overnight (12 to 24 hours) and then they are ground up in a food processor. Now while this burger only uses a couple of flavorful ingredients, you could up the spice level easily enough if you choose.

I came across this burger recipe on YouTube and decided to give it a try. The only changes I made were to use both black and ivory chickpeas and to slightly simplify the method. My version uses one less bowl that I didn’t need to wash. Black chickpeas were a novelty for me and since I had them I decided to try it here. They are smaller than the more familiar ivory chickpeas, and perhaps have a slightly different flavor. Frankly, just using regular (ivory) dried chickpeas is fine.

The marinated artichokes are already seasoned and the oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes add umami and great texture.

While you might be able to make this without a food processor, it would be pretty difficult to get the correct texture. Now this recipe makes 6 burgers. My 6’3″ husband ate two with corn on the cob as a side. I only needed one to be satisfied. We served the burgers on a toasted onion kaiser roll with beefsteak tomatoes from the farmers’ market, caramelized onions, radish sprouts, avocado and pickle. On the second burger my husband put some Sriracha Aioli on the bun. It was all delicious and I know that the next time I eat it, I’ll likely use other toppings like fast pickled onions and arugula.

SD* Chickpea Burger

Like falafel, the chickpeas you are using are only soaked – not cooked ahead of time. And no, canned chickpeas will not work here. In order to ensure that the chickpeas are fully cooked, do not make fewer but larger burgers. The SD* Chickpea Burgers will need time to cook through. I have not tried making them in the oven, which should work, but would likely produce a less crispy burger than one cooked in oil in a cast iron skillet. And in order to get that color and crispiness you might end up drying out the burger.

Because it is just the two of us, I plan on using the leftover burgers as my lunch during the week. They will last in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for much longer.

Brass tax: is this SD* Chickpea Burger likely to convert die-hard beef burger lovers? No. But is it a really good vegan burger enjoyed in its own particular glory? Absolutely yes. So if you are looking to add more plant-based meals to your diet, give this a try. Simply Delicious!

Recipe

Servings: 6 burgers

Ingredients

SD* Chickpea Burgers

1 cup dried chickpeas (Use organic!)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

12 to 14 ounces jar or can of marinated artichokes, drained (You can use the liquid as a base for salad dressing)

1/2 cup, drained sun-dried tomatoes in EVOO

Neutral oil for pan-frying (I used Canola)

SD* Chickpea Burgers

Directions

Soak the chickpeas 3 cups of water for 12 to 24 hours

Drain the soaked chickpeas. Then add them to a food processor with the salt. Pulse, scraping down the sides until the beans are finely minced and easily hold together when squeezed in your hand.

Add the artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes to the chickpeas and process until everything is ground up and evenly distributed.

Using your hands, form 6 burgers. Place them on a plate or in a container that will fit in your fridge, covered. Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 1 week. This will help them hold together in the pan when cooking.

When you are ready to cook them, heat a heavy or cast iron skillet with enough oil to cover the bottom well. When the oil is shimmering, carefully add the burgers in one layer without touching each other. Do this in batches if your pan won’t hold them all. Cook for 4 minutes per side. DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND OR SMUSH THEM DOWN! Carefully flip the burgers over and cook for another 4 minutes.

Garnish and enjoy!

Parsnip, Cherry Walnut Cake with Sweet Hawaij Glaze

Parsnip Cherry Walnut Cake

Parsnip, Cherry Walnut Cake with Sweet Hawaij Glaze is a knock-out. I know, I know – parsnip?! But hear me out. We eat carrot cake and zucchini bread without giving it a second thought. So why not the under-rated cousin of carrot? Parsnips are one of those root vegetables that is a harbinger of autumn for me. This sweet, unassuming vegetable is wonderful in soups, stews and root vegetable mash. But cake?

We Jews have just begun the Festival of Booths (Sukkot) which is the middle holiday in the panoply of High Holidays celebrated by Jews all over the world. This ancient harvest festival “commemorates the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert after the revelation at Mount Sinai. The huts represent the temporary shelters that the Israelites lived in during those 40 years.”

And parsnips are the perfect early harvested vegetables to begin the autumn and the Jewish New Year. I came across this recipe through a website called Nosher on my Jewish Learning. It intrigued me enough to try it. While perhaps not the most impressive-looking of cakes, it is packed with flavor. I did change the original glaze to one of my own making, however. It seemed that the amounts and types of spices would overwhelm the cake.

Included below is a recipe for Sweet Hawaij from the cookbook Shuk by Einat Admony and Janna Gur. This Yemeni spice blend is magical. I often use it to replace anywhere you might use pumpkin or baharat spices. It will take coffee and roasted vegetables to the next level. Try it in pumpkin pie. You might just be converted. I make up my own but it is also available online and at spice stores.

Despite the leavening used in the recipe, the cake does not rise very much in. If you would prefer a higher cake, you could use a smaller bundt pan, but it would likely increase the baking time. While dense, the cake is not at all heavy. Every day the flavors melded and became even moister and richer. I would definitely suggest making this at least a day ahead of when you plan on eating it. Mine was stored in a glass-domed cake plate and has held up beautifully.

Parsnip Cherry Walnut Cake

So if you are looking to add more veggies into your diet, there is no sweeter way than this Parsnip, Cherry Walnut Cake with a Sweet Hawaij Glaze. The tart cherries perfectly complement the sweet parsnip and the walnuts add some depth and texture. But don’t wait for a holiday to make this yummy cake.

Recipe

Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients

Parsnip Cherry Walnut Cake

For the cake

2 cups (260 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

1.5 teaspoons (7.2 g) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda

1/2 teaspoon (2.6 g) kosher salt

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup (206 g) packed light brown sugar or jaggery

1 cup (240 g) sour cream at room temperature

2 teaspoons (10 g) vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons or 113 g) unsalted butter, browned slightly cooled

About 4 parsnips (340 g after peeling and trimming ends), finely grated and packed into a 2 cup measuring cup

1/2 cup (60 g) dried pitted cherries or barberries

1/2 cup (57 g) walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

For the glaze

1.25 cups (155 g) confectioners or icing sugar

1 generous teaspoon Sweet Hawaij (see recipe)

pinch of kosher salt

About 1/3 cup milk (79 ml)

Sweet Hawaij

Yield: About 1/2 cup

1 Tablespoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons freshly grated nutmeg

2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons ground ginger

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

This will last in a cool, dark place kept in a small glass air-tight jar for up to a year. Mine gets used up waaaaaay before that!

Directions

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Spray well a 12-cup Bundt pan with a non-stick vegetable spray and set aside. Place a cooling rack over parchment, newspaper or a baking pan and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the salt and set aside.

Using a stand or hand-held mixer (or by hand), combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, vanilla paste and browned butter. Mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix just until barely combined. A few small streaks or lumps of flour are okay. (Over-mixing leads to a gummy cake!)

Add the finely grated parsnips, cherries and walnuts and mix just until combined. pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then turn it out. Allow it to cool completely. If you are feeling lazy, you can simply dust the cooled cake with confectioners sugar and call it a day. The cake alone is delicious. But if you want AMAZING, make the glaze.

For the glaze

In a medium bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, salt and Sweet Hawaij or pumpkin spice blend. Slowly add in the milk until you get a consistency that is fairly thick but still pourable. If you go too far, just add a bit more sugar. When the cake has cooled completely, pour or drizzle the glaze over the top and allow it to run down the sides.

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)


Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira) is hearty and fragrant – a soul-satisfying one-dish meal. There are many versions of this soup – some with meat and others like this one, which is vegan. In some families it is traditional to serve this as the “break-the-fast” meal following Yom Kippur. But it could and should be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter. This is a make-ahead meal that only improves with a bit of age.

To show how vastly different our family traditions can be, my family’s break-the-fast meal was always bagels, lox and smoked fish. We came from New York via Russia Poland. But the truth is that I actually don’t like lox and smoked fish in the Midwest just doesn’t cut it for me. So, as I have with much of our diet during the rest of the year, I have adopted a more Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/South Asian food culture. And a heavily plant-based diet.

I came across a version of this soup on the Jewish Food Society website. It’s a wonderful site that has made it its mission to collect stories and recipes of the myriad Jewish communities across the globe. These are recipes that have been passed down through the generations, but which might have so easily been lost. Because so many of these families were forced from their homes under terrible conditions, it was easy for these unwritten treasures to have fallen by the wayside. While I have found that the recipes on the site are not always easy to follow, especially if you are a novice cook, the family histories alone make the website worth a visit.

While we Jews lived among the local communities, we also remained outside of them, keeping to our own traditions. Local cuisine was adapted to meet the laws of kashrut. Harira, Moroccan Chickpea Soup is a perfect example. Moroccan Muslims would eat harira to break the fast on Ramadan. Whereas many Jews ate it to break the fast on Yom Kippur.

The original recipe for this harira uses fine egg noodles and since I am not a vegan, I did as well. However, there is no reason why an angel hair pasta or spaghettini couldn’t be used instead. That is the only change required to make this wonderful soup vegan.

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

If you choose to cook your own soaked chickpeas as I have done, you need to start the process the night before. If you prefer to use canned chickpeas, you can still make a delicious and hearty soup. I happen to enjoy cooking my own beans and use the liquid from the cooking process to replace most of the water called for in the recipe. It adds an extra level of nourishment and flavor and helps to further thicken the soup. Unless you are using organic canned beans, however, I would not recommend using the liquid. You could use water, as called for, adding a vegetable bouillon cube or you could use a vegetable stock.

After I had decided to make the recipe I found from the Jewish Food Society, I came across another version from My Jewish Learning, The Nosher. So I ended up doing what I usually do and took the elements that I liked best from both and then tweaked it!

My sister-in-law is from Morocco and I asked what her family’s tradition was for breaking the fast. She told me that their tradition was to eat an egg-drop soup before the fast and cake to break the fast, followed by a full meal. So whatever tradition your family follows – or if you are starting a tradition of your own, I definitely encourage you to fit this wonderful and incredibly soul-satisfying soup in there somehow.

For a version of harira with lamb: Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained OR one 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas

4 Tablespoons olive or a neutral oil like Canola

3 medium carrots (or 2 large), peeled and cut into small dice or rounds

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon Harissa paste, or to taste (I used 2 Tablespoons of a milder Harissa and added a few crushed red chili flakes)

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown lentils OR 1/2 cup red lentils and 1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (If making this in the winter, use canned tomatoes, about 28 oz. can)

3 cups fine egg noodles OR angel hair pasta broken into thirds (About 4 to 5 oz. depending on the kind of noodle that you use)

8 cups of vegetable stock, OR water with a couple of bouillon cubes OR the cooking liquid from the chickpeas plus additional water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

A large handful of cilantro and/or parsley, stems and leaves roughly chopped

Directions

If you are cooking your own soaked chickpeas, place the drained chickpeas in a pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and 4.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any white foam. Cover and cook for 50 minutes at a simmer.

In a large pot, add 4 Tablespoons olive or Canola oil. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 6 minutes on medium high heat or until softened. I like to add 1 teaspoon of salt here. I will probably add more later since it is a big pot of soup. However, if you are using broth or bouillon and depending on your Harissa, you might not need much more salt. You can always add it but you cannot easily remove it!

Once the veggies are softened, add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Now add the Harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and stir through to coat everything well. Cook for 1 minute and then add the tomato paste to the bottom of the pot. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you are using your own chickpeas you can add them to the pot. I find that when I cook chickpeas myself, they retain their shape and bite even when cooked longer. If you are using canned chickpeas, you will add them in later. Your lentils are also added now. Give everything a good stir to coat with the spices and tomato paste.

Next add the tomatoes, broth, water or liquid from the chickpeas, the chopped stems of the parsley and/or cilantro. Don’t worry if there are some leaves in there as well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. This can be done ahead.

When you are ready to eat, return the heat to a boil and add the noodles and canned chickpeas, if using. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and check your seasonings. The soup should be very thick, almost stew like. If you want it thinner then add more liquid. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Garnish with the chopped parsley/cilantro leaves.

Enjoy!



Flaky Flatbread

Flaky Flatbread with Fenugreek

These Flaky Flatbreads are fun to make and so versatile. Make them ahead and they reheat beautifully. While I make mine with a Bulgarian or goat yogurt, any yogurt will work, including non-dairy. And even though I brush mine with fresh garlic butter, you can use either a good EVOO or vegan butter instead. Recently, my husband was out of town and I made up a batch of these. I wrapped the leftovers in foil and reheated them in my toaster as needed. The outside got slightly crispy. And the layers flaked into these lovely fragrant pieces of dough that were perfect for dipping into soups and spreads.

Since I began doing more Indian cooking, I have become familiar with spices and herbs that I had not traditionally used before. Two of my favorites now are carom seed (ajwain) and fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi). Either one, or dried mint, cumin seed (or nothing at all) works wonderfully in this flaky flatbread. And because you control the seasoning, your flatbreads will be unique to you!

Unlike most breads, these flaky flatbreads don’t require any rising time. The dough comes together in just minutes. Then we let it have a nice rest until it becomes supple and easy to roll out. This resting time can be a 20 minute catnap or as much as a couple of hours. Your schedule can dictate the time. The longer resting time makes them a bit easier to work with, but I have made them both ways successfully. We enjoy these flatbreads at least once a week. They are the perfect compliment to Middle Eastern/Mediterranean foods as well as South Asian.

I came across many iterations of this basic recipe online so it is difficult to say exactly which one I ended up using. And the addition of the fenugreek and garlic butter is my own twist. How you use this flaky flatbread is only limited by your imagination. Leave out the garlic and this becomes a great bread for breakfast or snacking. Just add your favorite nut butter, smushed avocado or preserves. Smear on tomato sauce or pesto with the toppings of your choice and you have mini pizzas. Did I mention that this was versatile?

I am not going to claim that these are as healthy as the two ingredient lentil pancake/flatbreads that you can find all over YouTube. But eaten in moderation with an otherwise healthy meal, they are fine. And as much as I love a good lentil dish, these really do taste better than those pancake/flatbreads.

Flaky Flatbread with Fenugreek

Recipe

Yield: 8 flatbreads

Ingredients

2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus about 1/4 cup more for dusting the dough

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1.5 teaspoons fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) Optional, but recommended

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup plain natural yogurt (I like full-fat)

8 ounces melted butter

2 large garlic cloves, crushed Optional, but recommended

Directions

Measure out the flour, salt, baking powder and dried herbs, if used, into a medium bowl. Using a fork or whisk, mix everything together so that the salt, baking powder and herbs are well distributed. If the bowl is wider and shallower, it is a bit easier to work with, but any bowl will do. You can do this ahead and cover it until you are ready to make the dough.

Flaky Flatbread

Add the yogurt and mix through the flour until you get a shaggy dough. I found that it was easiest to use my hands for this. It should take only about 1 to 2 minutes.

Flaky Flatbread

Then using your hands, gently knead the dough until the moisture from the yogurt is distributed throughout and you end up with a smooth, moist dough. Depending on the shape of your bowl, it might be easiest to transfer the dough to your counter to work with. If you use a thicker yogurt, like a Greek or Icelandic yogurt, you might need to add a Tablespoon of water to the dough. Natural yogurts are more liquidy and preferable for this recipe.

Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover it lightly with plastic wrap or a plate. This entire process from the time you add the yogurt to the time you form your dough ball should take no more than 5 minutes and possibly as little as 3 minutes.

Flaky Flatbread

Allow the dough to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. It will not double in size. We are not using yeast. But the dough will become more relaxed and supple and will be easier to roll out.

When the dough has rested, remove it from the bowl and divide it into 8 pieces. Unless you are doing this for a living, just eyeball the pieces. It is not necessary to weigh them out to be sure that they are exactly equal in size.

Flaky Flatbread

Cup your hand over the dough piece and roll your hand in a circle against the counter to form a ball. Lay the pieces out on the counter or a baking tray or platter to make it easier to work with.

You want to work with one section or ball at a time. I found it easiest to put 1/4 to 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour in a shallow bowl or container rather than sprinkling my counter. I then slightly flatten the dough ball with my hand and dip each side into the all-purpose flour. If I need to double dip, I can. Any excess flour can be sealed in a container and used for the same purpose since no raw dough gets mixed in. I know, but trust me on this.

Flaky Flatbread

Years ago, a dear friend, now dead, gave me a wonderful marble rolling pin to use in making mu shu pancakes. I never actually used it for that purpose, but it is perfect for these flatbreads and I think of Marge with great fondness whenever I handle it. But any rolling pin or empty wine or beer bottle will work too.

Place the flattened dough ball on the counter or board and roll it out as thinly as possible. Don’t worry too much about the shape. If it is round or oblong, or even slightly misshapen, this will still work. I am no expert! Brush the dough lightly with some of the melted garlic butter. Then working from the longest end, tightly roll up the dough into a log. Perfection is not necessary! If butter got on the board or counter, just wipe it away with a paper towel. Otherwise the next ball will be difficult to roll out. It doesn’t have to be perfectly clean – just wipe up any excess butter or oil.

Then take one end of the log and curl it in on itself and keep doing this to form a flat snail. [See the speeded up video below] Lay the snail onto the baking sheet lined with a silicone sheet. If you don’t have that, you can use a sheet of parchment barely dusted with flour. Those with more experience may try to pleat the dough instead of folding it. This is something that I saw Chetna Makan do. The more folds that you have, the more layers of flakiness. But honestly, life is complicated enough!

Keep repeating this until you have 8 flat snails. Cover them with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow them to rest for as little as 20 minutes or up to an hour.

Quick tutorial on rolling out flaky flatbreads
Flaky Flatbread

When you are ready to cook the flatbreads, set an untreated non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet on medium high heat. If you have a bigger pan, use it so you can cook several flatbreads at once. If all you have is a small skillet, don’t fret. It will take more time to cook everything, but it will work just as well.

Take one snail at a time, keeping the remaining snails covered while you work. Again, dip both sides of the snail into your reserved flour. Using your rolling pin, roll the dough out into an approximately 5-inch diameter circle. If it isn’t a perfect round, it’s okay. I have yet to achieve a perfect circle! Try to keep the roll from opening up. It seemed to work best for me to just flatten the snail a bit with my hand first before applying the rolling pin.

Once you have the circle rolled out, generously brush the surface with the garlic butter. Immediately pick up the dough and place it in the hot pan, butter side down. Then brush the top side with butter. If your pan will hold more than one flatbread, immediately roll out your next snail, repeating the above process. Each side takes about 5 minutes to cook. The dough may puff up a bit while cooking. That’s okay. Take a flat spatula, and gently press down on the top of the dough. You don’t need to pop the bubbles, but you don’t want them to get away from you or when you turn the flatbread over, it won’t cook evenly. All of the surfaces need to hit the pan.

You know the side is done when you have nice brown spots all over. If your heat is too high, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the dough won’t really get that nice browned look that you are going for. As with pancakes, the first one out of the pan is never quite as good as the subsequent ones. I always go for the darkest bread at the bakery. So check your bread after 4 minutes to achieve the desired doneness.

When each flatbread is finished, you can place it on a baking sheet in a warm oven until you are finished and ready to serve. If you are not eating all of the breads in one go, allow the leftovers to cool and then wrap the rounds in foil. They will keep in the fridge for several days or even on your counter if your house is cool. When you are ready to eat them, warm them in the oven or a toaster. Do not microwave them!

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Enjoy Beet and Tomato Gazpacho – a feast for your eyes and your palate. August is the time to make tomato-based gazpacho. Gardens and farmers markets are resplendent with this juicy, ripe, flavorful fruit. While there is no “ONE” gazpacho, I have simply had too many that tasted more like a Bloody Mary than a true gazpacho. And this delightful cold soup should never be eaten out of season. Isn’t part of the joy in these foods that they are only available for a limited time?

Every summer my mother would make a delicious gazpacho. And I also enjoy some of the less traditional gazpachos without a tomato base, like this green gazpacho. One year our family took a trip to Spain and I recall with fondness the gazpacho that we ate in a former bull-fighting ring. It was garnished with prawns and the texture of the soup was velvety smooth and so refreshing on a very hot day. Every region in Spain has their version. You might wish to try this Andalusian Gazpacho.

The recipe is from the wonderful Martha Rose Shulman. She was inspired by the Spanish Michelin-starred chef, Dani Garcia. The color alone of this gazpacho makes it worth making. The beets that I roasted stained everything this glorious color!

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Where some gazpachos that I have had can be very spicy or sharp, this one is not. But don’t mistake smooth for dull or boring. Far from it! No single ingredient overpowers or catches in the back of your throat. But each element blends and compliments the other perfectly. For maximum flavor, make this Beet and Tomato Gazpacho the day before and allow it to thoroughly chill, adjusting the salt before serving. Chilled dishes tend to require more salt than you might otherwise use. There may be a bit of separation after the gazpacho sits in the fridge. Just give it a good stir and you are good to go.

This is not a difficult soup to make, but it does need a good blender to achieve the correct texture. The good news is that you do not have to peel the tomatoes – something that I hate doing. And while you probably could make this with prepared beets that are available at your grocery store, this is the time to roast your own beets. Roasting is very easy and if the beet greens and stems are in good shape, you can use them to make selka, a delightful and healthy Moroccan salad.

Serve this as a first course for dinner or as a light lunch with a crusty bread and a nice glass of wine.

Recipe

Beet and Tomato Gazpacho

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Two 1/4-inch thick slices red or white onion

1 large roasted beet

1 Persian cucumber or half of a seedless English cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

2 pounds of ripe tomatoes (about 6 medium), cored and cut into chunks

2 stalks of celery or fennel, coarsely chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, halved and the green germ removed from the center (This removes any bitterness)

2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

3 Tablespoons EVOO

Salt to taste (Start with 1.5 teaspoons)

1/2 to 1 cup of ice water, as needed for texture and consistency

For Garnish

1/2 cup diced cucumber

Slivers or ribbons of fresh mint leaves

Directions

Place the onions in a bowl and cover with cold tap water. Add a few drops of vinegar (Distilled or cider is fine – don’t waste the more expensive sherry vinegar here. By doin this, you are just softening any harshness that the onion may have.) Allow this to sit while you prep everything else. Then drain and rinse and cut into about 4 pieces.

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and mix to distribute them throughout. Working in two or three batches, blend all of the ingredients except for the garnishes in a blender until smooth. Add the water as needed to achieve the consistency and texture you want. It should be a silky puree. Then put all of the soup in a container and chill for at least 4 hours. However, it is better if allowed to chill overnight. Garnish and serve.

Festive Flatbread

Festive Flatbread

Festive Flatbread is as pretty as it is delicious – and it’s riffable! Since my husband retired he has gotten into doing some cooking, much to my delight. He now bakes the best challah, using my recipe, and is branching out to pita, pizzas and other flatbreads, with the occasional curry or stir-fry. The Festive Flatbread is named for the myriad grilled vegetables with all of their beautiful rich colors and flavors. It makes full use of summer’s bounty.

This recipe evolved because I was trying to clean out my vegetable drawer, and has become a favorite dinner for the two of us. We use just a shmear of homemade pesto sauce on the base, but you could also just brush it with a flavored olive oil. There is just a dusting of cheese, which could be left off if you wanted to keep this vegan. However you choose to make this wonderful flatbread just remember that sometimes less is more. Make sure that each element has the best flavors and don’t overdo it.

The shaping is kind of freeform so don’t fret if it isn’t a perfect circle or rectangle. And while we eat this as a dinner for two, if cut into smaller squares, this flatbread would also be a lovely appetizer with a beer or nice glass of wine. The version shown uses zucchini, red pepper, Portobello mushroom, corn and grape tomatoes topped with arugula. It’s a great combination and the Portobello mushrooms give off less liquid than some other mushrooms. But if you have eggplant or other kinds of peppers, use them. Caramelized onion – yummmmm! Even thinly sliced potato would be great. Let your imagination and vegetable drawer rule the results!

We did use the same basic flatbread recipe with a red sauce, pepperoni and cheese for a very thin crust pizza. And while it was delicious, the veggie version remains our favorite.

For other thin crust pizza/flatbreads:

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pizza

Butternut Squash Pizza

I’m going to turn the blog over to my husband now since this is really his handiwork.

Festive Flatbread

In Andrew’s words

Hi! It’s me again, Lisa’s husband, the guy who just recently started learning how to bake and cook. The recipe I’m sharing with you I adapted from Laura Vitale’s Grilled Veggie Flatbread, and it’s a wonderful summer dish, fresh, light, and flavorful.

Interested in my thoughts about learning to cook? Then keep reading.

Not so much? Then skip to the next section. My feelings won’t be hurt.

But I also want to share with you how my attitude about recipes and cooking changed over time. Here’s the thing: I started out knowing almost nothing about cooking, so when I’d watch a YouTube video where the presenter talked about “options” or was vague about some of the details, I’d get really nervous. How exactly am I supposed to cook this dish? What’s being left out that everyone else apparently already knows how to do?

This flatbread recipe is a good example. After I made it a few times I started to understand that you could make it slightly differently, or with different ingredients, and it would still be good. Or the next time I made it I could adjust it to what Lisa and I liked better (e.g. less pesto). So I’ll do things both ways: I’ll highlight how the basic idea of the recipe is simple, allowing you to make changes based on what you like or what vegetables you have on hand that night. But in the photos and descriptions I’ll also describe exactly how I made it, trying to be as simple and specific as possible. OK, on to the recipe!

Recipe

Yield: Dinner for 2 or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

Festive Flatbread

For Flatbread dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    ½ tsp active dry yeast

    ½ tsp granulated sugar

    1 tsp kosher salt

    ½ cup warm water

    ½ tbsp olive oil

For the topping

    1 zucchini or 1/2 of a green and 1/2 of a yellow

    1 red/orange pepper

    1 ear of lightly-cooked corn

    1 large portobello mushroom

    7 cherry or grape tomatoes

    Parmigiano cheese, grated

    Mozzarella cheese, shredded

    baby arugula

    fresh basil leaves

Instructions for those who are more experienced cooks

1. You grill some summer vegetables you have on hand

(You slice them up, toss them in a bowl with some oil, salt, pepper and some thyme or oregano, then put them on a grill and cook them until they start showing some char marks. Then take them off the grill and set them aside.)

2. You partially bake a simple flatbread. The instructions are below.

3. You put some basil pesto (or maybe some flavored olive oil) on top and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano. You put on those delicious vegetables, some oil, some Mozzarella and then pop it back into the oven.

4. After about 5 minutes you take it out, top it with baby arugula and basil leaves and a drizzle of oil. You put it back in the oven for a minute, then take it out, cut it into pieces and serve.

Step by Step Instructions

Place the yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl. Mix, cover, then let sit for about 5-10 minutes. The yeast should look slightly foamy, showing that it is working. (If you instead used instant yeast you don’t need to proof the yeast.)

Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together. Add the yeast/water mixture and the oil, attach the dough hook and run at medium speed for about 4 minutes. The result should be a smooth, supple dough.

Take out the dough, knead it slightly into a ball. Place it into an oiled bowl and cover. Leave the bowl in a draft-free spot in the kitchen. I like to use the microwave. Let it rise for 1 hour or until doubled. How quickly it rises will depend on how warm your kitchen is.

Now (or even earlier) prepare the vegetables: slice the zucchini into rounds about ¼” thick; slice open the pepper, discard the seeds and stem, chop into 1” pieces; slice the Portobello into strips about ½” thick; leave the corn on the cob; slice the cherry tomatoes in half.

Put all the vegetables in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, dried thyme or oregano, toss all together. Place the vegetables on a hot grill, or on a stove-top grill pan, one layer at a time. Turn them when you see char marks. (Alternatively the vegetables could be cooked in a skillet or even in a 425 degree F oven.)

Place your pizza steel (or stone or upside-down baking sheet) into the oven.

Preheat oven to 485°F

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 3/8 to ¼” thick.

Transfer it to a parchment-covered pizza peel or upside-down baking sheet. Slide it onto the heated pizza steel (or stone or upside-down baking sheet) and let it bake. Use a sharp knife to pop any large bubbles you see forming.

After 5 minutes take it out. It is partially baked.

Lightly brush the flatbread with pesto sauce or flavored EVOO, then sprinkle some grated Parmigiano cheese on top, if using.

Layer the grilled vegetables on top, but leave the cherry tomatoes for later. (Slice the corn kernels off of the cob first!)

Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt, then top with shredded Mozzarella (see photos).

Put it back in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Take it out of the oven, add the halved cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, fresh basil leaves, and fresh oregano.

Turn off the oven and put the flatbread back in just to warm up the topping. Keep an eye on it – the baby arugula wilts very fast. Then take it out and serve.

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

Feel the island breezes blow with every bite of this Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake. And while this cheesecake is rich, it is also refreshing with the citrus tang of lime zest and pineapple. The macadamia nuts and toasted coconut add just the right amount of decadence. The bits of lime zest make for a subtle yet pretty contrast to the silky, smooth, white of the filling. It’s such a happy cake!

So after a day of slogging at work or playing in the sun, this make-ahead dessert is the best reward. Another great thing about this cake is that it is not a ginormous cheesecake. It’s still just me and my husband at home and a 9-inch cheesecake would take forever to finish. The circumference is only 6 inches and will easily satisfy 6 of even the hardiest appetites. And it holds up beautifully for several days in the fridge.

I chose to use virgin coconut oil in place of butter in the crust. It just ramps up the tropical flavors and it is a 1:1 swap. If you don’t have coconut oil or prefer not to use it, just substitute with an equal amount of butter. And I used pre-toasted coconut that I buy from Nuts.com – a wonderful source for all kinds of dried fruits, nuts, flours, spices and treats. But, it also is easy enough to toast coconut yourself if you either don’t have access to this or simply don’t want to go that route.

As you read the recipe, you will notice that I layer the flavors to build the intensity. You will taste the coconut, rum and macadamia nuts in the base and topping. And the lime zest is in the filling and topping. So with every bite there will be the creamy filling along with the slight crunch of the nuts and toasted coconut. The pineapple on top just adds to the tropical notes. Lovely!

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

In order to get a perfect clean cut, run your knife under hot water first.

We are still not doing a lot of travelling, but eat this Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake and you will think that you are on a beautiful island with tropical breezes gently blowing.

My husband wanted me to add this comment from him:

I had my first piece of the Coconut Pineapple Macadamia cheesecake last night and was blown away. I had always thought that when chefs talked about a “particular balance of flavors” that it was just a bunch of hooey. I was wrong. This cheesecake isn’t merely delicious; it’s delicious from the first bite, as soon as that first combination of coconut, lime, pineapple, macadamia and other flavors hits your mouth.

NOTE: While I did not make this vegan, it easily could be since no eggs are required. Nowadays, there are delicious vegan substitutes for cream cheese and condensed milk. Check out my vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe for a recipe for vegan sweetened condensed milk at the end. This is my own recipe which is why I have not linked to anyone else.

For other delicious cheesecakes:

Blueberry Cheesecake

Summer Ricotta Cheesecake

No Bake Nutella Cheesecake

Crostata di Ricotta

Recipe

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

Yield: About 6 good servings

Ingredients

Crust

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

150 g of crushed biscuits (Digestive or graham crackers. While I love Digestive Biscuits, the graham crackers make for a somewhat less dense, lighter base. I have used both, but prefer the latter.)

70 g macadamia nuts (I used dry roasted with sea salt. If you use raw macadamia nuts then add about ¼ teaspoon kosher salt)

35 g unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/2 cup (113 g) virgin coconut oil, melted (If you use refined coconut oil there won’t be any of the coconut flavor that you want.) If you have neither, you can use butter.

Filling

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

8 oz. (225 g) full-fat cream cheese in a block, softened

1/2 cup (120 g) heavy coconut cream

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Zest of one large lime

1 Tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut

1 Tablespoon dark or light rum (Optional) (The alcohol cooks off and only the flavor remains)

14 oz. can (396 g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Topping

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

8 oz. can of crushed pineapple in juice

1/8 cup of light brown sugar (You could also use jaggery or demerara

Zest of half of a large lime

1.5 teaspoons corn starch

1.5 Tablespoons (44g) pineapple juice or water

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons to 1 Tablespoon rum (The alcohol cooks off and only the flavor remains)

About 1 Tablespoon chopped roasted macadamia nuts (Optional)

About 1 Tablespoon toasted shredded coconut (Optional)

Directions

Lightly grease the bottom of a 6-inch springform pan and line it with a round of parchment. You don’t have to do this but it will make it easy to transfer the cake off of the bottom of the tin.

Blitz the biscuits, nuts and coconut in a food processor or with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Do not wash the food processor. Just try to remove any excess crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and add the melted coconut oil. Mix until all of the crumbs are moist. It should feel like wet sand! Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 C.

Using a hand beater or the food processor (why dirty another utensil?) beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.

In a smallish bowl, whisk the heavy coconut cream and corn starch until smooth. Add this to the cream cheese. Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk and lime zest. Blitz until the batter is completely smooth. Pour the batter into the pan over the crumb base.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent any leakage. Set the pan in a baking dish large enough to hold it. I used a 9-inch square pan. Carefully add hot tap water to the pan until it comes up about half-way up the sides of the springform mold. This creates a bain-marie.

Place in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the center just slightly jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside. Keep the pan in there until your oven fan turns off or the cheesecake cools down. This prevents the crust from cracking.

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

Remove the cooled cake to a wire rack and using a sharp, flat blade, just carefully run it around the circumference of the cake. Cool the cake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

Meanwhile make the topping. Place the crushed pineapple with its juice, sugar, zest in a heavy-bottomed pan. On medium heat, cook until the sugar dissolves. Make a slurry of the cornstarch and water (that just means that you mix the two until there is a milky, smooth liquid). Add this to the pineapple mixture and bring it to a boil. Cook until the mixture thickens up. It doesn’t have to be totally solid as it will continue thickening in the fridge, but should be the consistency of a good jam. Allow the mixture to cool.

Add the cool mixture to the top of the cheesecake. I did it in the mold, but the original had you unmold the cheesecake and then add it. Your preference, but my way is easier if you don’t want a mess. Garnish with chopped macadamia nuts and toasted coconut (about 1 Tablespoon of each).

Coconut Macadamia Cheesecake

When you are ready to serve, unlock the springform and carefully remove the ring. You can then either leave the cake on the bottom for serving or it should come off easily once the suction has been broken. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy.

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Fast Fabulous Focaccia – a chewy, crusty, fragrant bread – that’s perfect with salads, beans and pastas. We make and eat a LOT of bread in our house. I can easily imagine living without meat, but not without bread. Since none of us is over-weight, we must be doing something right. This Fast Fabulous Focaccia comes together literally in minutes. After a proving time of about 1.5 hours it goes into a hot oven and is ready to eat. Fresh bread in about 2 hours!

I’m looking out my window at yet another rainy day with somewhat coolish temperatures for this time of year. While I might feel a bit droopy, my plants are on over-drive. Our terrace garden has never been more vibrant and my herbs are growing like crazy. I have been making pesto and mint chutney, putting rosemary into breads and stir-fry with handfuls of my Thai basil. So last night I decided to make a beautiful salad with ripe tomatoes, arugula, bocconcini mozzarella that I had marinated and fresh basil. I cooked up some pasta that I served with my pesto. But I wanted a bread to help soak up all of those beautiful flavors and olive oil. Since it was already 4:00, I knew that I needed to think quickly if we were going to have fresh bread with dinner. Enter this focaccia.

Having made some wonderful focaccia (see below for links to recipes) I knew 2 things: 1) I didn’t have quite enough time to make my best focaccia and 2) those recipes simply made too much for what I wanted. I turned to Molly Yeh. She is VERY perky – frankly, I find it a bit exhausting. And I wouldn’t make most of the foods that she makes – way to fatty. But she is very clever at decorating foods even if she is a bit too in love with sprinkles.

However, I have made two recipes that were wonderful and that worked exactly as written – her falafel and this focaccia. My version is delicious and easy and beautiful in its simplicity. If you choose to make it with elaborate vegetable designs like Molly Yeh and others I have seen, you can find instructions on the web.

A word about EVOO

The olive oil that you use will make or break this recipe. It is used at different stages of the recipe and truly makes the focaccia magical. As EVOO has become more popular, so has fraud in the industry. So don’t take for granted that the EVOO you are buying is actually what it says it is, especially if you are buying a flavored oil. I love using flavored oils in baking and cooking. If you choose to make your own – great. A Mediterranean blend with oregano, rosemary, basil and garlic was what I used. A good quality plain EVOO or one flavored to your choice would all work.

Focaccia is meant to be eaten fresh and warm with freshly drizzled EVOO on top. But we are only two people and even this more manageable-sized focaccia is too big for us to finish off in one night. Left-overs make wonderful croutons or can be used in a bread salad. The focaccia can be re-heated and we did eat it that way. It is definitely edible but it won’t be as amazing.

For other focaccia recipes:

Focaccia

Olive Rosemary Foccacia

Recipe

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

1.24 cups room temperature water

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1.5 teaspoons active dried yeast (or instant yeast)

About 9 Tablespoons EVOO, divided

3 to 3.25 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves (optional, but recommended)

Maldon or flaked sea salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a measuring cup or bowl. Allow to prove for about 10 minutes. If you are using instant yeast, there is no need to prove the yeast.

Once the yeast has started to get creamy, whisk in 3 Tablespoons of the EVOO. Then add this to 3 cups of flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix by hand just to moisten everything.

Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium-high until the dough is smooth and elastic and forms a stretchy ball. If the dough appears to be too wet (humidity and different brands of flour will all affect the moisture level) add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. Mine came together perfectly with just the initial 3 cups of flour. It was a lovely, supple dough.

Brush a quarter-sized sheet pan with 2 Tablespoons of EVOO. Place the dough directly onto the oiled pan and coat it in the oil. Using your clean hands, gently press out the dough to almost fill the pan. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and leave in a draft-free place. I use my microwave. It should double and fill the pan. Depending on the temperature of your room, this will take 1 to 1.5 hours.

About 45 minutes in to the rising time, heat your oven to 400 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone or steel, place it on top of the rack in the oven and allow it to heat.

When the dough has doubled, remove the plastic. If it hasn’t totally reached the end of the pan, you can gently press it out to the edges. Add your rosemary leaves, if using. With your fingertips, dimple the dough, gently pressing the rosemary into the dough. Drizzle with 2 more Tablespoons of EVOO. Honestly, I just eyeball it. All of the dimples that you made will allow the EVOO to pool in the dough, a classic sign of a focaccia. Sprinkle with the flaked salt. If you prefer or if you forgot, you can sprinkle with the salt after it comes out of the oven.

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle with more EVOO and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Remove the focaccia to a cutting board and serve!

Fast Fabulous Focaccia

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