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.
Tomato & Onion Focaccia
- 5 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packets)
- 2 1/2 cups warm water
- 5 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon EVOO
- 2 cups tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup EVOO
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and let it sit for several minutes until it bubbles.
- Put the flour and salt in the food-processor bowl and pulse to mix.
- In a measuring cup stir together the bubbling yeast mixture and 2 cups lukewarm water.
- With the processor running pour in the liquid through the feed tube and process for about 30 seconds. A soft moist dough should gather on the blade. Some may stick to the sides of the bowl. If the dough is really sticky add more flour a tablespoon at a time. If the dough is too dry pour in more water a tablespoon at a time. You want a very loose tacky dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Collect any dough on the bowl and blade. Knead gently for a minute using as little flour as possible. When the dough is soft and still a little sticky form it into a ball.
- Coat a big bowl with the tablespoon of EVOO. Put in the dough and coat it all over with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles--about an hour.
- While the dough is rising put the sliced onion and cherry tomato halves in a small bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of EVOO and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Mix well and leave them to marinate.
- Coat the bottom and sides of the baking pan with 2 tablespoons or more EVOO. (I use a 16x12x1 inch shallow metal pan.)
- Deflate the dough and lay it in the pan. Gently press and stretch it until it evenly fills the pan to the edge.
- Take the marinated onion and tomatoes out of the bowl with a slotted spoon and drain off the juice. Scatter the tomato/onion mixture all over the focaccia and lightly press the dough with your fingertips creating dimples in the soft dough even pressing some of the tomatoes and onions into the dough. Drizzle some of the marinating oil over the top.
- Let the focaccia rise uncovered for about 20 minutes. Put a baking stone on a center oven rack and heat the oven to 425 degrees. (You can bake it without a stone too.)
- Just before baking gently dimple the dough again with your fingertips and sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon sea salt all over.
- Bake the focaccia about 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake until the focaccia is golden brown and the onions and tomatoes are caramelized.
- Remove the pan from the oven and crumble the dried oregano scattering it on top and drizzle another tablespoon or two of marinating oil over the focaccia.
- Let the focaccia cool before cutting. Serve it warm or at room temperature.
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.