Make This Garden Art Focaccia Bread That Simply Inspires

Make This Garden Art Focaccia Bread That Simply Inspires

Easy Garden Art Focaccia Bread Recipe – Farmer’s Market Edition!

This garden bread art recipe was inspired by traditional Azerbaijani outdoor cooking and my love for all things fresh from the Farmer’s Market! Join me as I revisit my focaccia bread that first appeared in “Canvas and Cuisine: The Art of the Fresh Market” 

Skip to recipe

Sometimes inspiration just hits! For me it started with the Azerbaijan cooking vlogs that constantly show up in my Facebook feed. 

I used to look forward to seeing friends and kids of friends and grandkids of friends. 

Now, I peer into the screen waiting to see my adorable Azerbaijan friends as they emerge through the green door of their tiny house to forage through the woods, harvesting as they go. 

The only sounds you hear are the rustling of leaves and chirping birds. He throws down a metal pan, slices some logs and before you know it there is a working oven in the middle of a field or by the side of a stream or at the top of a ridge!

She uses a clever wooden board to chop everything from onions to a whole leg of lamb. He makes tea out of the flowers he picks as he passes the field. 

I’m inspired by everything that they cook – always outdoors and always on an open fire. But what gets me the most is how she (Lord, I wish I knew her name) bakes bread at almost every meal using nothing but her hands and a covered skillet. 

It’s amazing! 

And even more, it makes me crave fresh baked bread almost daily. 

Let’s face it…I have every modern tool known to man starting with electricity and ending with a machine fitted with a dough hook and still, I find bread making to be daunting.

I’m over it! If my Azerbaijan friend can bake gloriously delicious-looking bread over an open fire, then I can certainly take my bread baking to a new level using my state of the art kitchen. Right?

I have a really good recipe for focaccia bread in my book “Canvas and Cuisine: Art of the Fresh Market”.

The dough comes together quickly and rises when requested. It bakes in about 15 minutes and has just enough crumb to distinguish itself from flatbread. It’s my go-to bread recipe, so I decided that my focaccia dough would be my canvas.

My morning trip to the Farmer’s market yielded all sorts of treasurers. I purchased peppers and multi-colored carrots. I gathered my favorite purple-green tomatoes and all sorts of herbs. When I laid out all of these, I saw my plan come together. I would create a flower garden using veggies and herbs to decorate my bread. I would make my Azerbaijan friend proud! 

It’s all in the planning, so I laid out my design on parchment paper while the bread was rising. This was the smartest thing that I did, because I could change things around on paper that I would have been stuck with when placed on the bread dough.

I used red onions for flower petals and chives for stems. I sliced the carrots using my mandoline and cut olives, red cherry bomb peppers and grape tomatoes into thin slices. Sage and parsley leaves pulled everything together and my flower garden was born.

In the end, it worked like a charm and my pals oohed and awed at the results. I must admit I was pretty impressed with myself!

My Azerbaijan friend started me on this journey. (I feel I have more to come!!) The Farmer’s market furthered my vision.

And here’s my take from this experience. Inspiration can be found anywhere; you just have to open your eyes. 

What’s going to inspire you this week??

Garden Art Focaccia Bread Recipe

 

Servings

6-8

Ready In:

20 Minutes plus a few hours for bread to rise

Good For:

Appetizer, Brunch

Ingredients for Garden Art FOCACCIA Bread

 

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 ¾ cups warm water

  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup olive oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 

  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions for Garden Art FOCACCIA Bread 

 

Place the yeast and sugar into a small bowl. Stir in the warm water. Place the bowl in a warm place until the yeast is bubbling and fragrant, about 15 minutes. I use the proof setting on my warming drawer for this.

Use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to combine the flour, salt, ½ cup of olive oil and the yeast to form a dough. Once the dough comes together, continue to knead the dough in the machine until smooth. Stop the machine and check the dough every couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, hold its shape around the dough hook and spring back when you indent it with your finger. This takes anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes using the mixer. If you are kneading by hand, knead until you can’t knead anymore!

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead it by hand for an additional 30 seconds. If the dough is too sticky, you can sprinkle with additional flour. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. I use my warming drawer for this step, too.

 

Pour the remaining cup of olive oil onto a 12 ½ x 17 ½ x 1-inch jelly roll pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, stretching it out to fill the pan. Turn and coat with oil on both sides. Use your finger to poke indentations into the dough. These will be the “nooks and crannies” to hold the seasoning in the next step. Place the dough in a warm place to rise again, for 1 hour. Yep, the warming drawer is still the best place!

Preheat the oven to 400°. Transfer the pan from its warm place. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, sea salt, thyme, and rosemary. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan before cutting into squares.

 

Get on BOARD With This Charcuterie: Tuna Steak Nachos

Get on BOARD With This Charcuterie: Tuna Steak Nachos

Mix and match your guests’ favorite meats, treats, and cheeses and never be bored with your charcuterie board! Start with these Tuna Nachos, perfect for tailgating at home. Click to skip to the recipe

 

There are lots of reasons to entertain family and friends these days, as long as your family and friends have maintained their social distance while trying to live their lives amid craziness!

We’re all living in our reduced social circles these days, but that still leaves us room to gather safely. And gather, we do!

One of my favorite ways to entertain is to set out individual bites onto a lovely charcuterie board.

Now, by its very definition, a charcuterie board is made up of prepared, cured meats (usually pork) and varieties of cheeses.

The very word charcuterie comes from the French words chair (flesh) and cuit (cooked).

But meat and cheese can be boring, so I veer towards combining charcuterie with an antipasti platter. Olives and pickled veggies are so yum.

But then I have a couple of crudité tray ideas and well, before you no it, I create a board full of appetizers that is unlike any other.

Just like I like it!

My recent board was created for my fellow book club pals. It was packed full of individual appys that by themselves would be perfect for a first-course nibble, but when combined could serve a crowd for a cocktail party or game day (stay-at-home) tailgate party.

The appys assembled on my board included roasted shrimp on a stick, chunks of Parmesan cheese, whole roasted garlic, salami and cream cheese “flowers”, margarita sausage on baguettes with lime mustard, gouda and sun-dried tomato “pimento” cheese with candied bacon, hummus and Parmesan stuffed tomatoes and the fan-favorite, seared tuna nachos with roasted garlic cream.

Whew! Sounds like a lot and it was…..but it was also FUN to prepare and wonderful to watch as they were devoured in no time.

Whether you prepare your own fan-favorite appys or arrange store-bought (and there are tons of them) items on your board, the secret is to be surprising. Mix and match your favorites and be creative with your choices. After all, you never want to be bored with your board!!

Seared Tuna Nachos with Roasted Garlic Cream

These nachos are a big hit. You can easily make them in advance, and they look divine on your appy board.

Ingredients

For tuna:

1 (8-ounce) tuna steak:

½ cup rice wine vinegar

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

4 green onions, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)

1 (1-inch piece) ginger, grated

1 tablespoon olive oil

For roasted garlic cream:

Cloves from 2 whole heads roasted garlic, about ¼ cup, mashed

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup heavy cream

Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

For nachos:

Large, sturdy tortilla chips

2 cups tender green leave, washed, dried and thinly julienned (I used frisee, baby kale and butter lettuce leaves)

Serves:   A Crowd

Time:   60-Minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Place the tuna steaks into a shallow dish. Whisk together the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, onion, and ginger.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade.  Pour the rest over the tuna steak.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours in the fridge.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the tuna from the marinade.  Shake off the excess.  Sear the tuna in the skillet turning once, about 2 to 3 minutes per side for very rare.  Remove the tuna to the freezer and chill for 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the roasted garlic cloves, sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine into a smooth thick cream. Season with salt and pepper. The cream should be thin enough to drizzle.  Pour into a squeeze bottle and set aside.

Place the tortilla chips on a platter. Toss the greens with the reserved marinade.  Place several shreds of lettuce over the tortilla chips.

Remove the tuna from the freezer.  Use a very sharp knife to cut very thin slices (across the grain) of seared tuna.  Place 1 to 2 slices (depending on how thin you can cut) onto each chip.  Drizzle with garlic cream. 

 

Host an Oscar Night Tapas Party!

Host an Oscar Night Tapas Party!

The Oscars are all about glitter, glamour and gowns. If you are looking to bring a bit of the Oscars home to your friends and family, don your most resplendent gear and turn your home into a RED CARPET PARTY. Choose a theme that allows you to prepare all the yummy dishes in advance, so you’re dressed-to-kill in time for the opening act.

One of my favorite do-ahead party themes is a Tapas Party. Why tapas? Wellllll…..You can make the dishes in advance and offer a huge variety to satisfy your guests for the entire show! Tapas are the small bites served in the restaurantes and tabernas in Spain. Patrons travel from tavern to tavern, sampling the specialties of each chef. For this party, we’re going to offer all those specialties on one buffet table.

To set the scene, create a tablescape using brightly colored flowers in small vases of various heights. Add bowls of fresh peppers to highlight the spice of the evening. I like to use small chalkboards to identify each dish, so that your guests can choose easily. Set a tower of small plates on the table, encouraging each pal to take just a little taste of each dish you’ve prepared.

And don’t forget a specialty cocktail! My favorite for this party is Sangria. I marinate a diced apple and peach in rum overnight. Then I place the marinated veggies into a large pitcher and cover with equal parts rosé wine and orange juice. Chill in the fridge for several hours (before the party!!) and pour over ice.

And, the envelope please!

Here are a few of my favorite tapas party dishes, taken from blogs that call for recipes during the most festive times of the year! I finish off with a recipe for the star dish, TORTILLA ESPANOLA!

Garlicky Shrimp and Shishito Peppers. Cook slices of garlic in olive oil over low heat until the garlic is just golden. Remove the garlic and use this oil to cook shishito peppers and jumbo shrimp until just opaque. Serve the shrimp at room temperature.

Gazpacho Soup with Guacamole. Prepare your favorite guacamole and your best gazpacho soup. My new favorite gazpacho adds a roasted beet that gives the soup a rosy red color. Place a scoop of guac into the bottom of a martini glass. Cover with gazpacho. Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Croquetas De Jamón. I love these little fried bites of ham and cheese. Well, not just any ham and cheese. These blend famed, Iberian ham (you can substitute with smoked ham) and Manchego cheese into a rich, creamy béchamel sauce. You can make them days in advance and finish them in a fryer, or fry pan hours before the party. Keep them in a warm oven and serve at room temperature.

Tequila Spiked Berry Shortcakes. Nothing says winner like berries spiked with tequila and served over sweetened biscuits with a scoop of lime sherbet and a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Pisto. For your veggie loving friends, this is the perfect dish. Simply sauté onions, garlic, peppers (hot and sweet) with eggplant and zucchini. Stir in diced tomatoes, a little veggie stock and season. Garnish this veggie stew with fresh parsley.

Tortilla Espanola…in progress!

A staple on most tapas menus, this torte is a reminiscent of potatoes gratin and potato frittata. Thinly sliced potatoes are fried, then gently tossed in beaten egg and finally cooked in a shallow sauté pan. You have to flip the torte halfway through cooking, which is just a tad tricky, but not impossible. Keep the torte warm until your ready to serve. It’s perfect warm and at room temperature.

Tortilla Espanola
(Potato Torte)
Serves a crowd
40 Minute Cuisine

Kinda like potatoes au gratin, but more like a potato frittata; this torte is a yummy comfort food, perfect for your tapas buffet table!

 

5 to 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 large yellow onions, diced, about 3 cups
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 3 tablespoons
6 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
Chopped, fresh parsley

Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice the potatoes into thin rounds. Place the potatoes into a colander and toss with salt. Pour enough oil to come halfway up the side of a deep skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. You will know that the oil is ready when you place the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and you see bubbles. Fry the potatoes in the oil until they are tender in the middle and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes. You can do this in batches, so that you don’t crowd too many slices into the pan. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer the potatoes onto a paper lined baking sheet.

Carefully add the onions and garlic to the oil. Lower the temperature to medium low and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer to the baking sheet holding the potatoes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully pour all but 2 tablespoons of the oil into heat resistant bowl. (When cooled, you can strain and re-use the oil for another recipe.)

Place the eggs into a large bowl using a fork to blend. Gently slide the potatoes, onions and garlic into the bowl. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper and gently blend trying not to break the potato slices.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Pour in the potato and eggs using a spatula to spread evenly in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds to brown the (soon to be top) of the torte. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the center is set, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use the spatula to gently loosen the edges from the pan as it cooks. Shake the skillet to make sure the center is setting. Turn off the heat. Take a plate, that is larger than the skillet, and place it upside down over the skillet. With one hand on the plate and the other on the skillet handle, invert the pan so that the torte comes out and onto the plate. There might be a little loose egg around the edges. Use your spatula to scrape any bits back into the torte. Gently slide the inverted torte back into the pan and turn the heat to medium. Cook until a tester inserted into the center of the torte comes out clean, about 5 to 6 minutes more. Garnish the torte with chopped, fresh parsley. Transfer the torte to a clean platter and keep warm. The torte can be served warm or at room temperature.

Checkerboard Tricks

Checkerboard Tricks

If you plan to entertain friends on Oscar night, this presentation gets best picture!

 

Back in the day when I catered large parties, my favorite ingredient was party bread. I can’t believe it’s still around, but it is. Party bread is a small (usually 3-inch square) loaf that comes in pumpernickel, sour dough and rye. I slather these breads with everything you can think of, but the all-time favorite was a caviar checkerboard. I spread cream cheese on each slice and topped it with black and red caviar. Not only was it a great presentation, but it’s an easy appetizer for your guests to pick up.

I’ve upped my game a bit, over the years. I no longer use grocery store caviar for the squares. Instead I use smoked salmon and shrimp. I top the salmon with a twist on gremolata that incorporates red onion, capers and lemon zest. The shrimp is based on the same shrimp salad that I love to use in my shrimp rolls. This is topped with just a bit of really good caviar.
This is the perfect dish for a Valentine’s Day party or your contribution to Oscar night. You can switch around the squares to anything you like. No matter what you use, that party bread will serve you well!

Salmon and Shrimp Checkerboard
Serves a crowd
60 Minute Cuisine

A fun presentation of some typically Swedish inspired ingredients. It takes a little bit of time, but the dish is all about its WOW factor!

For Salmon:
1 package party pumpernickel bread, about 36 (3-inch) square slices
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces sliced smoked salmon
2 tablespoons finely minced red onion
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 small lemon, about 1 tablespoon

For shrimp:
12 ounces frozen salad shrimp (150 to 200 count), thawed
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons
2 stalks celery, finely diced, 2 green onions, finely diced, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons caviar

Spread the cream cheese on one side of 18 bread slices. Lay smoked salmon slices on top of the cream cheese. Use a sharp knife to trim the bread into neat squares. Place the red onion, capers, dill, parsley and lemon zest onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to finely mince these ingredients to create a caper gremolata. Sprinkle just a bit of this gremolata onto all of the salmon squares.

Place the shrimp into the bowl of a food processor. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, celery and parsley. Pulse to combine into a smooth paste. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spread the shrimp paste onto 18 bread slices. Use a very sharp knife to trim each slice into neat squares. Top each square with just a bit of caviar.

Alternate the squares to form a checkerboard. Garnish the platter with thinly sliced lemon and fresh dill.

Easy Appetizer Recipe for the Ages

Easy Appetizer Recipe for the Ages

 

 

The New Year calls for a look at one’s past and fresh applications of it in the future. Martha Stewart inspired my culinary career with her very first book of recipes and stories of her catering company. My best pals and I were starting a catering company at the time, and unabashedly borrowed from her tried and true dishes.

This week, with a house full of hungry family, easy make ahead nibbles are a must. I channeled my inner Martha and recreated one of those recipes. Simply cook tortellini pasta. Drain and place into a bowl with your favorite vinaigrette. Skewer the tortellini on small picks alternating with a baby tomato. Offer Parmesan dipping sauce on the side, and there you have it. You can make everything the day ahead and serve it at room temperature. See how easy?

As I write this, I just viewed an ad for Martha’s Marley Spoon home meal delivery program. Just when the likes of Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are working their way into our weekly meal planning, here comes the queen! I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!!

Tortellini Skewers

Makes 3. 5 dozen

Parmesan Dipping Sauce

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup

Juice from 1 large lemon, about 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon chopped, fresh dill

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

Skewers

1 ½ pounds fresh tortellini

1 pint grape tomatoes

½ cup vinaigrette

Whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.  (Bring to room temperature before using.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook the tortellini until just tender.  Drain the pasta into a bowl. Add the tomatoes and toss in the vinaigrette. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate.  (Bring to room temperature before using.)

Skewer one tortellini on a small pick, alternating with a half of a tomato and another tortellini. Serve with dipping sauce.