Monday, November 8, 2010

Goat Cheese, Roasted Piquillo Peppers and Tomato Focaccia

Pin It You know how sometimes for weeks, you wake up looking like crap and there's nothing you can do about it? Well, the same thing happens to me when it comes to cooking. There are weeks when I can't make an edible meal to save my life. I burned two pots recently -- first, I melted a silicone steamer right into a pot that I've had since college. Then I burned the replacement pot after reducing poaching liquid for way too long. The enamel at the bottom of the pot came up with the black burned on mess. I'm still having trouble saying goodbye to my almost brand new but now toxic and useless pot.

After professional athletes get out of a slump, they always look back and define the turning point of the season -- the one key event that brought their groove back. I think I've hit my proverbial turning point. I made some easy mac-n-cheese plus corn muffins for a friend's early Thanksgiving dinner. Both items came out pretty good. Then, the very next day, I made this --

Hellllllloo, Good Looking! I'm really pleased with how this turned out. And it was pretty easy to do with a bit of planning ahead.

You'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cup of warm water (80 - 100 degrees)
  • 2 teaspoons (one envelope) of instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoon of salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 jar of roasted piquillo peppers (or roasted red bell peppers would be fine too), drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 medium/large beef steak tomato, sliced thin
  • 2 ounces of goat cheese
  • 5 to 6 sprigs of thyme
Add yeast and olive oil to warm water and set aside until yeast dissolves. Mix together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon of salt using stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. While the mixer is on low, slowly pour in the warm water mixture until dough comes together. Replace paddle attachment with hook attachment and knead for 4 minutes on medium-low.

Spray large prep bowl with olive oil and then transfer dough into the prep bowl. Turn the dough once over to ensure it is well covered with olive oil. Cover the dough with wet paper towels and set aside for 1 hour, or until the dough doubles in size. Punch down the dough and then spread it flat into a baking pan greased with olive oil. Cover with wet paper towels and set side for another 1 1/2 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

While the dough is rising, combine piquillo peppers, garlic, red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Process the mixture until it becomes a smooth sauce using either stand blender or immersion blender.

Once the dough has risen, dimple the dough in two inch intervals. Season with salt. Spread enough of the piquillo pepper sauce to cover most of the focaccia dough, leaving about one inch all the way around. You may have leftover piquillo pepper sauce, which can be served as dipping sauce. Add tomato slices on top. Add nubs of goat cheese and sprigs of thyme on top. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on top. Bake for 25 minutes until the bottom of the focaccia is crispy and the edges are golden brown. Serve with extra piquillo pepper sauce on the side.

The piquillo peppers really add a nice balance to the tart tomatoes and the creamy goat cheese. (Yes, that tomato was from our "harvest".) Watch out, I may have gotten my cooking groove back.

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