Sunday, September 09, 2007

Better Than Wonderful Focaccia

Saturday, September 8, 2007
First, a word about vegetables. As I've mentioned, I'm in a Crop Share program where I pick up half a box of vegetables every Thursday. I always thought I ate a lot of vegetables, but I have to say it's been a trial to get through all the ones I've picked up so far this summer. The boxes seem to be getting bigger every week, and it's getting harder and harder to make my way down to the bottom of the vegetable bin before I'm hit with another half-ton of organic wonders. Thus, we had end-of-the summer vegetable soup with pistou. I used broccoli, onions, carrots, potatoes, scallions, three kinds of peppers, tomatoes, parsley, kale, and basil. After all that, I still have eggplant (a challenge to disguise since Jim claims to hate eggplant), cabbage, more potatoes, more onions, and a butternut squash.
Well, of course, with soup, one must have bread.

I'm always looking for new recipes from Rose, and found one on her website that I haven't made yet. (She really is going to have to get going on another bread cookbook). She calls this "fantastic focaccia." It's pretty much like a regular focaccia except it's made with sourdough starter, which I happen to have in my refrigerator, and caramelized onions, which I adore, and which offered a means of using up two onions. The recipe actually calls for a soft starter, but I just added a little more liquid to my dough and it was fine. It's really quite easy, and it has a great texture, with lovely, unevenly shaped holes.

Rose's technique for caramelizing onions is to steam them in olive oil on very low heat for a good half hour, then take off the lid, and slowly let them brown. Two largeish onions become reduced to less than half a cup of beautifully golden essence of onion-ness. The bread went perfectly with the soup, which I served with a big dollop of pistou (just like pesto only without the nuts). Jim ate a few bites of soup and pronounced it "wonderful." Then he bit into the bread and said, "This is better than wonderful."

Now what the hell am I going to do with that eggplant?


Anonymous said...

Roast your eggplant, skin it, remove the insides, and mash with garlic, olive oil, salt, and a dash of white vinegar. Makes a great spread for your nice breads! Anna

Doughadear said...

What a beautiful meal! There's nothing like fresh summer vegetables to make a great soup and of course the wonderful focaccia! As for the eggplant, there is a really good recipe for Neapolitan Eggplant Parmigiana in "From Biba's Italian Kitchen." It's pretty much eggplant lasanga, layers of fried eggplant, tomato sauce, slices of fresh mozzarella and grated parmigiano baked in the oven.

Anonymous said...

That Focaccia looks so good! I have a solution for your vegetable glut, Ratatouille. You can use tons of vegetables in it, including the eggplant. It will be disguised, he'll never know the difference.This also freezes well, so make a big pot. Sometimes I mix in a cup or so of bulghur. Another fav is to make polenta, pour it into a 13X9, cool. Top with the ratatouille and top with mozzarella and bake like lasagna.YUM!

breadbasketcase said...

That spread sounds terrific--I made baba ganoush a few weeks ago, but this sounds so simple.

I love eggplant parmagiana myself, but Jim rebels. I'll have to make it for myself when he's out of town.

Ratatouille--I don't know why I didn't think of that myself! It's an end-of-summer standby that I make almost every year, and the eggplant disappears into the other vegetables well enough that Jim doesn't balk at eating it.

Thanks for all the eggplant advice!

Melinda said...

Loved all the other suggestions but how about Moussaka? I have a good recipe if you need it. If it is too undisguised eggplant (aubergine) make it for yourself and freeze it for later when Jim is away. It freezes well.
The soup and bread look delicious together.

breadchick said...

Your focaccia is wonderful looking.

Here is one more "hide the eggplant suggestion". Skin, grill and chop into 1 - 2" square chunks, removing the seedy part. Make a quick tomato ragu with sausage and when you add the sausage, add the eggplant. When they are combined this way, you can't really tell what is sausage and what is eggplant.

jini said...

i like can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. it's similar to ratatouille, but you can add olives and lots of vegetables along with your eggplant, and it's yummy. ;~}

Chubbypanda said...

Eggplant Parmesan. The marinara sauce tends to drown out the eggplant.

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks for all the great eggplant suggestions! What I ended up doing with the eggplant was to make a sort of faux Thai eggplant and pork thing. I sauteed some eggplant, peppers, and ground pork, poured some water in, turned the flame to high and covered the pan. After about ten minutes, the water has evaporated and there's a crispy crust on the bottom. I added soy sauce and spicy Thai chili sauce and a bunch of fresh mint. Jim loved it--said it was the best eggplant he'd ever had. I'll be getting another eggplant tomorrow, so I'm thinking I'll just work my way through your various suggestions.

Julie said...

Another ratatouille-like dish is crespeou, which is many, many layers of open-faced omelets cooked with whatever vegetables you have on hand. You chill the whole thing until the layers and all the flavors meld together. I have a recipe and picture for it here, but the idea is not to have to use a recipe and the picture is awful. Also, tomatoes and bell peppers and onions could be used for a gazpacho which also calls for some stale bread to be soaked in, if you have that on hand as well.

breadbasketcase said...

Crespeou is a new concept to me, and it sounds terrific. I don't think your picture is awful at all--it makes me want to try it. Thanks.