Weeknight Focaccia

Stippling the dough for our Weeknight Focaccia recipe

A few weeks ago, I made focaccia for dinner on a Tuesday night. Normally, this would be impossible due to time constraints. But I found a Weeknight Focaccia recipe in my cookbook, Savory Baking: Recipes for Breakfast, Dinner, and Everything in Between. This makes it not only possible but pretty easy. It does however require some planning.

Fresh focaccia is one of those things that I just can’t stop eating. And, when I found myself with way too many tomatoes, I figured this would be a good way to use them. I sliced them thin and, after brushing the focaccia with olive oil, I layered them on top with a sprinkle of fresh Italian herbs and some salt before baking. The results made for an amazing mid-week dinner that I paired with a giant salad.

I started the dough on Sunday evening and left it in my fridge until I was ready to use it Tuesday night. You could easily use the dough the next day but the longer stay in the fridge gives the dough a little more time to ferment which gives it more flavor. 48 hours is the max though.

For those who are not tomato fans, you could leave the focaccia plain and sprinkle it with flaky sea salt for crunch, or, my personal favorite, thinly slice some fresh leeks and toss them in a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper then layer them on top before baking. The smell of your kitchen alone would be worth it.

Weeknight Focaccia Recipe
Adapted from Savory Baking: Recipes for Breakfast, Dinner, and Everything in Between.
Yields one 13″ x 18″ sheet pan

This easy-to-prepare bread is chewy, a bit crispy, and wonderfully fluffy. It is great for splitting to make sandwiches and heavenly with a salad and a bowl of soup.

The Weeknight Focaccia dough mixes up fast. And, you can form it in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here we have chosen to use a sheet pan. And, note that the bread needs to rise in the fridge anywhere from overnight to 48 hours—you choose. The longer it rises the more flavorful the loaf. Read more…

Jollof Rice

Photo of a dish of Jollof Rice on a wooden table

The Lasso Way
Some of my biggest food obsessions can be directly attributed to something I saw in a movie or on TV. For example, had I not seen Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond eating Moroccan food with their hands in the 1995 movie Sabrina, I might never have understood the beauty of a perfect tagine, that harissa can go on everything, or how to make couscous the right way. (Yes, there is a wrong way). It happened again. But, this time on the small screen.

Like many others, I am a big fan of the Ted Lasso series. And, it was during the Season 2 Christmas episode that my latest obsession was born. In it, Sam is seen bringing some Jollof Rice to the potluck though he laments that it was made with chicken instead of goat. This struck a chord with me. And, the continuing storyline about Sam and his love of his native Nigerian food made me want to see what it was all about.

Though I am not totally unfamiliar with flavors from the African continent, my exposure has been limited to the northern regions and Ethiopia. I just never had the opportunity to taste Nigerian food or other regional flavors from the continent. So, I started researching cookbooks. It was harder than I thought. There are plenty of books about North African cuisine, but those are the flavors I knew the most about. I found a number of options that highlighted the influence African flavors had on traditional Southern cooking. Finding books that focused on other flavors was a bit of a challenge. I did manage to find a couple of good ones. Africana: More than 100 Recipes and Flavors Inspired by a Rich Continent is excellent.

My first mission was to try to make Sam’s Jollof Rice. There are a lot of versions. And, each West African country claims theirs is the best—which is fine. It just means you need to try all of them.

I have found Jollof recipes that I would refer to as “projects” because they take a long time. And, I have found versions that are a little less labor-intensive, though still probably too much work for a weeknight meal. Some recipes include plantains, some don’t. Some are smokey with paprika. Some aren’t. You could get lost in the possibilities. However, all of them will start with rice, tomatoes, and a preferred spice.

This recipe is from Food52 and it is excellent. Give it a shot if you are interested. You just might start your own obsession…

Jollof Rice Recipe
Adapted from Food52
Yields about 16 servings

Jollof Rice is a dish that is served across West Africa. This version is based on a Nigerian recipe. And, while each country has its own version, the consistent elements are rice, tomato stew, and seasonings. Jollof is often served as a main dish.

This recipe makes a large pot of rice, and it can easily be halved for smaller quantities. The dish can also be divided and frozen for later use. Read more…

Fast Focaccia Pizza

Fast Focaccia Pizza on a board ready to slice. That Focaccia Pizza
I think we all remember the bread-baking phenomenon that happened during the height of the pandemic. Most of us were up to our elbows in sourdough just out of sheer boredom. While all of that was going on, you may have missed the rise (no pun intended) of focaccia production that happened simultaneously.

Fresh homemade focaccia is ridiculously good. There is an episode of Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix that shows her making focaccia while on location in Italy which is the epitome of performance art. And a sure-fire way to bring on hunger.

Focaccia on its own is wonderful but focaccia as a base for pizza can be on a whole other level. One of my boys is the lone fan of fluffy pizza in a family of New York style devotees so he rarely gets the high-carb pizza that he loves because he is always outnumbered. Focaccia pizza is a great compromise. It’s hard to not like focaccia. To be clear, focaccia pizza is not the same as a deep-dish pizza. Using pizza dough to make focaccia will not give you the same results.

What you decide to put on your focaccia pizza before you bake it is entirely up to you. Just remember that less is more so that you can taste the amazing flavor of the focaccia as well as the toppings. Pro tip: add a layer of mozzarella before you add your sauce. This will keep the focaccia from getting too soggy.

Fast Focaccia Pizza Recipe
Adapted from Anne Burrell and The Food Network
Yields 8 to 10 servings Read more…

Go-To Pizza Dough

Go-To Pizza Dough coming out of a brick ovenPizza Pizza
Tonight is make your own pizza night, a family favorite. There’s a twist, though. Normally I will heat up a pizza stone in my oven or sometimes on my grill to cook the pizzas. Tonight, we are doing it at my sister’s house because she’s the one with a pizza oven.

All of the dudes in our lives are either on business trips or off at school. So, my daughter, sister, and I are having a girls’ night. We are making our own pizza because I want to see if I need a backyard pizza oven like my sister has.

For years my husband and I have dreamed that it would be great if we had a wood-fired oven in our backyard. We could make bread, roast meats, and, yes, make fantastic pizzas. My husband would love to build it, as he is always up for a project.

But, here’s the thing. Making pizza, or anything else in a wood-fired oven is a process. As awesome and beautiful as a brick oven would be, you have to be the kind of person who will really use it. You must have an hours-long plan not only for getting it hot but also for when the pizza making is over and you let the oven cool.

It would be a waste of time, energy, and resources not to throw other things in there like some gorgeous sourdough bread or some succulent roasted chicken and potatoes. It’s potentially a two-day process at least. Which, if you have the time, is a great way to spend your days. But, it’s just not practical for most of us. And now that my household is rapidly shrinking, I don’t have the mouths required to consume all the oven-roasted bounty.

My sister has a gas-fired tabletop pizza oven that I am thinking is the better solution. So, tonight I’m going to test drive it. Below is the recipe for my Go-To Pizza Dough. (Can’t go wrong with Bobby Flay!) I am curious to see how the pizzas turn out and what the flavor is like without the smoke of the wood. Though, you can get ovens that will use both.

Go-To Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from Bobby Flay and the Food Network
Yields 2 14-inch pizza crusts Read more…