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

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style is redolent with spices – warming, delicious and comforting. This lovely curry from Chetna Makan is easy to make and sure to please. Don’t be scared off by the list of spices. If you do Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, you will likely have these on hand. And if you are just getting into these cuisines, these spices are basic and easily accessible in most grocery stores and online.

My husband and I find these dishes so satisfying to make and eat. Served over some basmati rice or with a flatbread, you have a satisfying meal. However, I almost always serve these with some chutneys, raita and small salads. When I have these on hand in my fridge it’s like having money in the bank! And I have found that while it may not be traditional, mixing Middle Eastern salads and sides and Indian often works out really well.

Depending on the size of your chicken thighs and your appetites, this will easily serve 6 to 8 people. If you have teenagers – maybe 4!

While you could make this with chicken breasts, I wouldn’t. The thighs are more flavorful, moister and sized better. You will want chicken thighs with the bone in but without the skin. If your butcher won’t remove the skins for you, it is easy enough to do. Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style is made with yogurt, but if you still wish to make this but observe the laws of kashrut, you can substitute, full-fat coconut milk.

I made this for a Shabbat dinner which I always go all out for to make special. So in addition to the curry and salads, we made an easy zucchini and corn fritter (kofta) to along. They make a lovely, simple, vegan appetizer or side, which just require a dab of chutney or yogurt to finish off. I will be posting that soon.

For other Indian sides:

Indian Side Dishes with Something to Please Everyone

For other curries:

Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Paneer)

Bene Israel Fish Curry with Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

Tofu Coconut Curry

Chicken Curry with Spices

Cashew Curried Chicken

Recipe

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

For Marinade

1/4 cup plain full-fat yogurt or coconut milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated or crushed in a garlic press

1 inch of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

6 to 8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), trimmed and with 3 deep slashes made in the flesh of each

For the curry

3 Tablespoons neutral oil (I use Canola but sunflower etc. is fine)

1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)

4 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

3 medium tomatoes, cut into small dice

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Directions

Combine all of the marinade ingredients, except for the chicken, in a bowl and mix well to combine. Place the chicken in a glass or stainless bowl or clean freezer bag and pour the marinade all over. Gently massage the marinade into the chicken. Cover the bowl (or seal the bag) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but up to overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oil on medium heat in a heavy-duty pan with a flat bottom that can hold everything in one layer. Cast iron is great for this. Add the cumin seeds and bay leaf.

As soon as they begin to sizzle (about 1 minute) add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes or until a lovely golden color.

Now add the tomatoes and their juices and cook for about 10 minutes or until they have softened. Add the spices and salt and cook for an additional minute.

Add the marinated chicken along with any liquid and mix through. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 40 to 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Chicken Curry Punjabi-Style

This can be made earlier in the day if you like. It is best to allow the curry to rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavors to fully develop. Reheat on low when ready to serve. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh cilantro.