I got off easy this year. I didn’t cook Thanksgiving dinner. I joined friends in the North Bay and had to bring an antipasto.
It took me a while to get inspired but an idea hit me at the market. The late harvest grapes were spectacular. I made a grape and walnut focaccia scented with rosemary.
Focaccia is a good option for a bring-along appetizer. Flatbread is easy to transport and can be served at room temperature. I paired this one with creamy Italian robolia cheese. The sweet grapes and crunchy walnuts are enhanced by the scent of rosemary. A bite of the focaccia with a bite of the cheese is heavenly.
Bubbly prosecco was the perfect accompaniment, adding a crisp citrus and floral note.
I got carried away. I made a savory pear tomato focaccia too and paired it with a balsamic-rubbed aged pecorino cheese. The doughs for these 2 flatbreads are not the same. Here’s the tomato and onion focaccia recipe.
I love baking in the late fall. Making pizza, focaccia or bread is a zen experience for me. Kneading dough and baking relaxes me. Making focaccia in the morning makes my day.
Off to a friend’s birthday party. He asked me to bring an appetizer. I had a hard time coming up with one that would work–too messy, won’t travel well, can’t serve it at room temperature….
It had to be something special–this was my birthday gift. I needed the inspiration I knew I would find at the North Beach Sunday Farmer’s Market. There they were–in the last stall at the bottom of the street.
The tiny tomatoes glistened like jewels. They inspired a gift to celebrate late August in San Francisco–a red and gold cherry tomato and young onion focaccia. These little gems burst with sweet tomato flavor when you pop them in your mouth. The gold ones were especially sweet.
They probably don’t need it but I knock the flavor up a couple of notches with an EVOO marinade. The tomatoes and onions will caramelize while baking on top of the focaccia for more sweetened intensity.
This focaccia recipe is simple and quick to make –especially if you don’t count the time it takes the dough to rise.
Cut Up Red & Gold Cherry Tomato and Young Onion Focaccia
Guess the focaccia turned out good. Several plates didn’t last long at the party. The crust was crunchy at the edges and the interior airy and light. The tomatoes and onions were reduced to their sweet essence. I drizzled some of the marinade on top to moisten the scattered dry oregano as soon as the golden focaccia emerged from the oven.
Ah you gotta love the late August bounty even if everything is 2 or 3 weeks late this year. It’s been a chilly summer. My tomato guy says he’ll have the first crop of San Marzano tomatoes next Sunday if they get some good sun and heat this week. He only watered them once all month. They’re gonna be meaty. I can’t wait.
This is the menu for a recent lunch I prepared for about a dozen work colleagues, evenly divided between Bay Area and NYC residents.
I wanted this meal to feature the best of slow food in the Bay Area for our NY guests, so I served Fra’Mani salami made in Oakland and used only organic farmer’s market produce. Italian prune plums had just arrived in the farmer’s market near my office and the strawberries were just about done for the summer season so I had to use them both.
I rounded all of that out with the best of imported Italian products that I could find in Gianni’s North Beach and at A.G. Ferrari near my office too. I wanted to include a Jewish dish and chose the stuffed artichokes in the style of the Roman Jewish ghetto. Besides my mother’s lasagna, the lasagna al forno con balsamella is the one that my family and friends most often ask me to make for them so I had to include it in this menu.
Check out the wines. They either mirror or contrast the major flavors in each course. Let me know if you want me to show you how to make these dishes or want me to post some of the recipes.
Carciofi alla Romano. Artichokes with a breadcrumb, minced mint, parsley, garlic, and anchovy stuffing poached in EVO and water. (The star of the course. All the rest of the stuff could be eaten after the last bite of the artichoke went into your mouth.)
Prosciutto di Parma
Fra’ Mani Toscano Salami (locally produced)
Boschetto al Tartufo. Cow and sheep milk semi-soft cheese with white truffle from Toscano.
Robiola Bosino. Cow and sheep milk soft cheese from Piemonte.
Cipolline en agrodolce. Flat caramelized Italian onions in a balsamic and chestnut honey sauce.
Olive Calabrese. Olives, roasted red peppers, garlic cloves, Calabrese chili in an EVO marinade.
Focaccia. Homemade, topped with EVO, sea salt, dried Sicilian oregano. A Neapolitan favorite.
Vino: Alice Ose vino spumante. A sparkling rose from the Prosecco region of the Veneto that pairs well with this broad array of fairly bold flavors.
Lasagna al forno con balsamella. Layers of homemade pasta, Bolognese meat sauce, grated parmigiano and fresh mozzarella, and bechamel.
Insalata mista. Baby field greens, edible flowers dressed with “La Mola” extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamico and fiore di sale (the very top crust of sea salt beds).
Vino: Badio e Colibuono Chianti Classico 2006. Had to go with a Tuscan to stand up to the lasagna and this is a great bottle. Not as good as the 05, but a very close runner-up.
Crostata di prugne con crema. Free form tart with fresh Italian prune plums with a dollop of whipped cream on the side of each slice.
Liquore di fragole. A homemade strawberry liqueur. Had to make this with the last of the summer’s small, dark red strawberries. In Italy, this liqueur will keep the strawberries in your heart until the first harvest next spring.