Or..."when a bottle of French wine had a ménage à trois with some stuffed Italian bread and a dish of ratatouille".
I’ll come right out and say that there is no grand story behind last night’s dinner. What may come across as a well-planned out, labor-intensive feast, took no more than an hour of active work. And, I am proud to say that aside from the bottle of Bordeaux, the gorgonzola, and fresh mozzarella, the makings of our dinner were either locally grown, homegrown , or windowsill-grown.
When the season for fresh, local tomatoes finally comes around, I find it important to enjoy their juicy goodness while you can. Come January, the store shelves are stocked with hard, pale baseballs. What’s the point, folks? Why even bother. In the winter, it is best to resort to canned tomatoes for all of your cooking needs, and leave the unripe rocks to those who know no better. But my calendar says we still have another good month of two before being forced into fresh tomato deprivation.
While the picking is still good, we made some ratatouille.
As a lover of fish and alternate proteins, I would be happy to eat meat only once or twice a meat. However, when you live with a man who sneaks bacon rind snacks into the shopping cart and spends the whole year dreaming of a Christmas dinner with salted lambs ribs, it’s hard to pass off a dinner without a dead animal as a “complete”. Of course, with one exception: Siri’s ratatouille with stuffed focaccia. The convincing certainly grows easier when you stuff the bread with nearly a pound of cheese.
Today’s post is for Focaccia Farcita, a recipe I got from the local library’s cookbook aisle. I won’t be able to give credit to anyone, as I don’t remember who the author was, but I do recall that it came from a Norwegian bread-baking book with a section on “exotic bread from around the world”. Just say the words, Focaccia Farcita, it sounds so rustic, so Old World, so Ligurian coast. No?
The bread is made with the traditional ingredients of flour, olive oil, sugar, salt, and yeast and is stuffed with (what appears to be) a traditional blend of ingredients; gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella, and basil. The top of the bread is dotted with small fingertip indentations, creating small wells in the bread before being coated with olive oil and topped with sea salt and sprigs of fresh rosemary. Meraviglioso e delizioso!
I’ve done my very best to translate this from the Norwegian and to convert from the metric. If you have a kitchen scale at home, I highly recommend using it. I find weighing your dry ingredients to be not only incredibly quick, but also practical and precise. For this reason, I have placed the metric measurements within parentheses, allowing you to take your pick of measuring units.
*adapted from a "breads of the world" baking book I once picked up at our local library, the title of which is long since forgotten
Makes one-2 Lb. (900 gram) focaccia
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 1/4 cups (300 dl) water, lukewarm for activating your yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups (500 grams) All-Purpose flour
3 Tablespoons of a good-quailty olive oil
6 ounces (200 grams) gorgonzola
6 ounces (200 grams) fresh mozzarella
A good handful of fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
A couple sprigs of fresh rosemary
1. Pour 2/3 of the lukewarm water into a small bowl. Dump the yeast and sugar on top of the water, give a small stir, and allow to activate and foam.
2. Blend the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast water and the olive oil, stir well with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the water and stir/knead until your dough is soft and springy.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead until the dough is elastic, roughly 8 minutes. Add more flour if dough appears too moist, more water if dough appears too dry.
4. Lightly oil a deep container, lay the dough in the container, and cover with plastic. Allow dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
5. Deflate the risen dough and divide into two even pieces. Allow these to rest, covered, for another 10 minutes.
Filling the bread:
6. Using a rolling pin, roll both doughs out into10”circles. Place one circle onto a lightly greased baking sheet and scatter your basil and cheese across the dough, leaving a small edge.
7. Lay the other circle onto of the first and cinch the edges with your fingers to create a seal. Lay a kitchen towel over your bread and allow it to rise one last time, for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400F.
8. After the 30 minutes are up, use your finger tips to make small indentations in the bread. Drizzle or lightly brush a small amount of olive oil over the top, sprinkle with the sea salt, and decorate the top with short sprigs of rosemary.
9. Bake in the preheated oven until golden, somewhere between 35 and 45 minutes.
10. After you removing from the oven, drizzle on another 2-3 tablespoons.
11. Serve warm with a good red wine, a rustic dish with tomatoes, and if necessary, a little salami or prosciutto.