Thursday, August 30, 2012

Focacce with Fontina, Peppers and Onions

This focacce was a total accident of leftovers. I had a bunch of peppers and onions, a spare piece of pizza dough leftover from a dinner party (I served Chanterelle Pizzas and Prosciutto-Arugula pizzas as appetizers) and a small piece of fontina - all the ingredients for a perfect little lunchtime smackerel.

The intention was to take it on our transcontinental train trip, but it was completely pillaged before I could slice and wrap it. I will make it again, and make it often, and I recommend you do the same. Use any veg or nice cheese you have on hand, and serve it up anytime. It would make an excellent lunch, picnic food, or appetizer. And don't be afraid of making pizza dough. The dough is pretty resilient. Here's that recipe:

Foccace with Fontina, Peppers and Onions
Print recipe only here

1/3 recipe Pizza Dough
2-4 T olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup grated fontina
2 T grated Parmesan
1/2 onion, sliced crosswise and sauteed gently
1/2 red pepper, julienned and sauteed gently
1 ripe tomato, sliced
Kosher salt
Chili flakes (optional)

Mix pizza dough earlier in the day, or the day before. Knead into a smooth ball, coat a bowl with olive oil and rub oil onto surface of dough. Cover well with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise at room temp for 2-3 hours, or until doubled. (If making the day before just stick the wrapped bowl in the fridge.)  Punch down dough and let rise again, about 45 minutes. Punch down again and divide into three even portions. Knead each well. Let sit, covered with a kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. If making uno solo foccace you can oil a ziploc bag and freeze the other portions.

Saute the onions. Reserve. Using the same pan (once the onions are out of it) saute the peppers. Reserve. Slice the tomato, grate the cheeses and reserve all.

Lightly oil a baking sheet (I used a 12x17 sheetpan). Lightly flour the counter and roll out one of the dough balls into a shape similar to that of the baking sheet. Rotate the dough as necessary and add flour sparingly, but make sure the dough isn't sticking to the counter. If it shrinks back a lot, let it rest for another 5 minutes, then try again. Once you get it rolled out (it should be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, transfer it to the sheetpan. Don't be nervous!

Preheat the oven to 500, with a baking stone if you have one.

Let the dough sit for about 20 minutes. Prep the olive oil: press one clove of garlic into a small bowl. Pour in about 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil and stir. When the dough has risen a bit (after the 20 minutes sitting time) use your fingers to dimple it all over. Then use a pastry brush (or drizzle with a spoon) to brush the surface of the dough with oil. Don't worry about using all the oil, just baste the dough evenly.

Sprinkle the surface with a pinch or two of kosher salt (and chili flakes, if you like). Then sprinkle the fontina evenly over the surface. Top with the sliced tomato, then the onions and peppers, and the parm on top.

Sprinkle with another little pinch of salt and drizzle the extra oil over any exposed tomato, then bake for 6-10 minutes. Every oven is different, and the thickness of the dough will vary baking times. Just keep watch (without opening the oven door too many times) and pull it out when it's nice and golden. Reserve for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Read Full Post

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Get Thee To Acadia (and La Fornette, too)

I am blown away by two new places. The first is new French bakery called La Fournette, located on Wells just south of North Ave. I've been anticipating their arrival since I first sampled their bread at Dominique Tougne's bistro, Chez Moi. We went this morning and sampled some croissants and their Country Bread. Lovely. I'm going tomorrow to pick up a Miche. La Fournette, which means little oven, I think, features patio seating and every traditional French bakery item: macarons (the color was too bright, deterring consumption), homemade preserves, crepes, boulangerie sandwiches, and a wide selection of classic pastry.

Last night we had a delightful meal and amazing cocktails at Acadia in the South Loop. Chef/proprietor Ryan McCaskey was the guest chef at James Beard House in NYC earlier this week and we sampled a few of the dishes he presented in New York. Equally compelling were the cocktails, prepared by a Gary Oldman doppleganger. Presentation was exquisite and featured house made ginger bear, tonics, and cucumber ice cubes, just to name a few. A lovely bar menu would satisfy anyone.

Have you been anywhere new? Do tell!

Read Full Post

Saturday, August 25, 2012

One Big Table

That's just one of the cookbooks I'm reading this summer. Yeah, I read cookbooks. This one, in particular, is a great read because there are so many stories within. The book is the result of food writer Molly O’Neill's ten-year transcontinental road trip, undertaken in order to research the prevailing opinion that Americans had stopped cooking at home. The opinion persists in spite of her efforts, but doesn't tell the whole story of what goes on in America's kitchens. This book does. It contains hundreds of recipes from passionate home cooks to four-star chefs (and a few from their mothers). The recipes reflect the diversity of the American palate and the array of foods Americans put on their tables each day.

I traversed the continent myself this summer. I ate roasted trout aboard an Amtrak train between Chicago and San Francisco (the side of watery veg went untouched); salmon up and down the West coast; more than my share of blueberries on Bainbridge Island, WA; Italian cured meats in the soft sand at Jones Beach in New York; and French Vietnamese back home in Chicago at my surprise birthday party. Maybe I ate other meals that were better, but those particular ones, which were enjoyed in the company of those who I hold most dear, are the ones I will remember.

It's been a glorious summer. As it comes to a close, I'm perusing my new books for inspiration. I came across recipes for Beef and Barley Soup, Caramel Frosting, and Malaysian Broccoli that I cannot wait to try. Most of all, I'm looking forward to the days and evenings spent around tables big and small.

That's all.

Read Full Post