Mediterranean Harvest Salad & Homemade Focaccia
This hearty salad is a nod to fall, from here in New England to travels along the Mediterranean. The creamy butternut squash is roasted with aromatic cumin, sweet paprika and the goodness of Olivio’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil then tossed with hearty lentils, refreshing mint and an earthy goat cheese which balances out the exotic. Toasted almonds add the perfect crunch and a splash of red wine vinegar brings everything together over a bed of spicy arugula. Grab a hunk of home-made focaccia and a glass of Rioja, pretty please! Let’s sit down and toast to yet another successful harvest.
Speaking of focaccia…The chill in the air always inspires me to turn on the oven. I love being the first up and firing up the oven, warming the kitchen and anticipating what awaits. My inspiration to make focaccia this week came from my friend Noelle. She arrived at a gathering with a fresh loaf snuggled in a beautiful dishcloth that had been baked in a cast iron skillet. Chic and rustic, it smelled and tasted divine. Talk about a hostess gift?! If you are new to bread baking, this recipe is easy. All you need is a little time while you wait for the dough to rise. I love all the olive oil. My dry tired hands feel smooth and restored after all that delicious kneading:)
MEDITERRANEAN HARVEST SALAD
You can find the recipe here.
1 3/4 cup warm water (about 110*F)
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1 Tbs Granulated Sugar
5 cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tbs Kosher Salt
1 cup (1/2cup + 1/2cup) Olivio Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
2 Tbs dried herbs such as Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, red pepper
Feed the yeast! In a liquid measuring cup combine warm water, yeast and sugar. Let the mixture stand for 15 plus minutes. The mixture will be frothy and bubbly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine flour and salt. With mixer on low, incorporate Olivio’s EVOO and Yeast mixture. Allow the mixer to knead the dough for about 8 minutes.
Pull dough from mixing bowl out on a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough a few times, sprinkling with flour so the dough is smooth, not tacky. Drizzle about 3 Tbs of Olive Oil in bowl, coating surface. Return the dough to the bowl and roll a couple times. This will help when you remove the dough from the bowl after it has risen. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot (70*) in the house for 1 hour. The dough should double in size.
After dough has risen, punch down and knead 1-2 minutes until you no longer hear or feel air bubbles popping. Pour remaining 1/2 cup EVOO into a 12″ cast iron skillet. It is the Olive Oil that gives focaccia the awesome flavor and crust. The more the better:) Add dough ball and using your hands, pull, stretch and press dough to fill the skillet. Flip once. When the dough has been fitted, use your fingers to dig holes all the way through the dough until you reach through to the skillet. Don’t worry- when the dough rises the second time the holes will mostly fill. But you must be extreme if you want to maintain some texture. The texture is what makes this bread awesome for sopping up the flavor of what ever you pair it with.
Allow to rise in skillet for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425*. Just before placing in the oven, sprinkle with your favorite herbs and coarse sea salt. Yum! Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool 30 minutes before slicing into bread. You want to let the steam cool inside the loaf to insure that it stays moist and delicious with a perfect chew! Brace yourself, your house is going to smell amaaazzzing!