Monday, November 24, 2008

Salted Focaccia with Rosemary

In early October MiL and sFiL visited for MiL's birthday. Since MiL is by far the coolest and most thoughtful MiL ever, she brought me an awesome little tasty treat.

But not just any tasty treat. You see, whenever time happens upon a traditional gift giving occasion most people seem to fall back on the tradition gender role-type gifts. Men get ties or tools, women get bath stuff. And ya know, bath stuff is great. But I've got a hole shelf-full at this point. (OK, not anymore. I've used it all up by now. I'll take more bath stuff now...but that's not my point.)

Sure it seems appropriate, and we chicks always react the same way, "Oh thank you! You shouldn't have. No, really, you shouldn't have! Oh yes, it does smell amazing! Wherever did you find such an intoxicating scent?"

But you want to know what we're really thinking? "Holy crap this smells like someone dipped road kill in gardenias/vanilla/lavender."


But that's not what kills me about generic gift giving - it's the complete lack of originality. (And because some bath stuff really does smell freakin' awesome.) It's that people won't take the time to think of a gift someone might really appreciate. Now, I'm not one of those people that rushes out to buy a gift at the slightest hint of an occasion. I do birthdays and I do Christmas, and even then it's pretty tame - but the gifts I do buy I buy for a reason. It's not - oh hey, that's cute and less than fifteen bucks, I'll buy them that. It's truly something I think they will really enjoy, it's me showing them how much I appreciate who they are and what they mean to me. Or it's something that they really wanted and asked for explicitly. That always makes gift giving crazy easy.

Now, all that rambling was about MiL bringing me a pretty little present when she visited, because MiL takes the same care and attention to gift giving (just like my mother, I'm blessed to have so many lovely ladies in my life) that I do. It's obvious that she's really thought about the person she's purchasing for. Now, obviously this was a 'just because' gift and completely unnecessary (I never think a gift is mandatory, not for any occasion. Not even birthdays or Christmas. I'd much rather just have the company of good people.) and for that it was even more appreciated, because MiL is just such a nice person.

Now, what is this fabled gift you may ask? Actually, what you're probably thinking is "Get the frig on with it SB before I go do more important things like check my Facebook page for the eighteenth time today." Well, her lovely gift was this:

Oh yeah, that's right - 18 year balsamic. This shit hits your tongue and angels sing. It's a pedicure and someone cleaning your house for you at the same time. Oh yeah. It's that good.

So at this point you must be asking, "What the crap does all this gift giving and vinegar gots ta do with focaccia, SB?"

Well, I'll tell you.

It's freakin' tasty ass vinegar and I had crap for olive oil. Everyone knows when you've got prime balsamic you can't bastardize it with a bunch of other garbage. (Mr. TA likes to dip french fries in balsamic...odd, but tasty.) So, my plan was to buy some choice olive oil and make some homemade focaccia. And then, I would sit down in a completely silent kitchen, the scent of fresh baked focaccia lilting through the air - sunlight in my face and a song in my heart and I would eat the whole goddamned loaf of bread in one sitting, dipping every morsel into the vinegar of the gods.

Only problem was I couldn't find a decent olive oil. I'm not mixing my precious baby balsamic in some friggin' Bertolli. No sirree. So, when Mr. TA and I went down to Paso Robles for our anniversary this month I was elated to find a whole store completely dedicated to olive oils. I tried about 5 and settled on one that was perfect. Fresh and crisp with just a little grassiness. It took Silver in some competition in Los Angeles this year. It was outstanding. It was hugely out of the price range I'd usually consider for non-essential items, but I'd been looking forward to this for a really long time.

So, I bought a bottle and carted it home, anticipating my gluttonous encounter with bread and vinegar.

How was it?

Amazing. It was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. I'd never paid that much money for a bottle of olive oil in my life, but it was the perfect accompaniment to the sweet balsamic and salty focaccia. A luxury I'm so glad I allowed myself. The flavors melded together yet remained independent, mingling on my palate so cleanly. It was vinegary-olive oily-bready nirvana.

Then I cleaned up my kitchen later that night and knocked the bottle of olive oil off the counter and shattered it on the floor.


I was speechless.

But hey, my floors are hella shiny now.

And the focaccia? The best, easiest bread in the universe. Light and fluffy, crunchy with salt - perfect for dipping and easy to whip up in under two hours. In fact I've already made it again today.

And hey, it goes really well with balsamic vinegar and olive oil...just so you know.

Salted Focaccia with Rosemary
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups (14 ¾ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons course Kosher salt, for sprinkling on top
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1) Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom.

2) Combine all of the ingredients, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.

3) Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover the pan, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it’s become puffy.

4) While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

5) Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.

6) Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and rosemary.

7) Bake the bread till it’s golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

8) Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Kristin said...

NOOOOOO. I shed a tear for your olive oil.

cookiecrumb said...

I am really, really sorrry about your oil.
You should send a copy of your post to the Olive Oil Store (forgot it's name) in Paso. Maybe they would take pity on you.
At the very least, you can order a new bottle.

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

Sorry about the oil! Oh my goodness, that was such a shame.

And I agree with you about the gift-giving. Sometimes, it's just so mindless that at the end of the season you're left with more and more junk.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

That is a wonderful looking foccacia, I just love to eat it like that, dipping in olive oil and vinegar. So sorry about the acciden with the bottle :(

Alex Rushmer said...

The vinegar sounds incredible. Sorry about the oil though...

Kitchen Flavours said...

Yummy looking foccacia. Like to indulge in it right now. First time here. You have nice and rocking recipes blog. Keep rocking!