"Like old peasants, we could sit by the fireplace, grilling slabs of bread and oil, pour a young Chianti. After rooms of Renaissance virgins and dusty back roads from Umbertide, I cook a pan of small eels fried with garlic and sage. "
I think it's books like these that pushed me into the kitchen - it's not only food, but poems and dreams. So - last night I made Nick Malgieri's focaccia and my own herb cheese, dreaming of Tuscan fireplaces and olive trees.( I don't have an olive tree, but I do have an orange tree -see above)
To make the focaccia ( this is from The Modern Baker), and it is the best focaccia I've ever had.
4 cups King Arthur flour
2 t. salt ( and this is important! I use kosher.)
one envelope active dry yeast
1 2/3 cup warm water
3 T. olive oil
extra olive oil for the pan and for drizzling
one jellyroll pan, generously oiled
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl.
Whisk yeast into warm water in a small bowl, then whisk in the olive oil.
Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast/oil mixture.
Using a circular motion with a strong spoon, mix the dough until all the dry bits have been incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place - on top of the fridge, or in an oven that has been turned on for a few minutes, then off. Make sure the oven is off and warm, not hot.
Let dough rise to double. Scrape dough into oiled pan and pat out to fill the pan. Let rise for another 40 minutes or so.
Dimple the dough with your fingertips, drizzle olive oil ( about 2 T.) , plus herbs if you wish, on top of the dough. Bake at 400F for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove the focaccia from the pan with a large spatula, and place on cooling rack.
The herb cheese:
Tangy, silky, and the best ever topping for sandwiches - especially roast beef or turkey sandwiches. It works on baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, with raw veggies for crudites and/or a dip - delicious!
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 stick softened unsalted butter
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. dijon mustard
1-2 T. fresh parsley, minced
1 T. fresh chives, minced, or finely chopped green scallion tops
2 garlic cloves, pressed
SALT to taste
freshly cracked pepper
1 T. dried tarragon
In mixer bowl or by hand, mix ingredients together until thoroughly blended. Taste! I often need to add more salt. Pack in containers and place in fridge until needed.
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