Salty Focaccia

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 1 3/4 cup warm water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast. Let sit approximately 15 minutes, or until frothy. Attach the dough hook, then mix in 5 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 cup olive oil. Knead approximately 5 minutes or until the dough appears smooth.

Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Clean out any additional dough from the mixer, then wipe the bowl with olive oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with wrap (I use beeswax cloths) and let sit in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Coat a full size cookie sheet with with 1/4 cup olive oil. Use a cookie sheet with walls. Put the dough ball into the pan and begin pressing to fit the pan. Brush an additional 1/4 cup olive oil over the top. Continue pressing the dough into the pan. Use your fingers to make dimples in the bread- flat focaccia is boring. Press it to the corners a couple more times over 30 minutes to get the dough to remain stretched. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup room temperature water and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. This is your brine. Pour brine over the dimpled dough and allow to rise for approximately 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450. While the oven is preheating, place another cookie sheet, upside down, on the rack. This will get nice and hot and work in lieu of a baking stone.

Just before putting the bread in the oven, sprinkle large grain salt over the top lightly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes with your dough-filled cookie sheet atop your inverted sheet. Check the bottom after 25 minutes and see if golden brown.

Remove from oven, brush with olive oil and let sit for about five minutes. The oil should absorb into those dimples.

Remove from pan and transfer to a cooling rack.

Serve warm.

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Faux Pho Empanadas

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I’d been toying with the idea of pho and empanadas for a while before finally getting around to finding the star anise and testing them out. I’d predicted correctly that they’d be delicious!

For the dough:

Mix together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into cubes, 1 egg, 1/3 cup ice water and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. It should form a shaggy dough. Knead a couple of times with your hands, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

For the filling:

Brown 1 pound ground beef, then add 1/2 diced white onion, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 3 thinly sliced green onions, 1 teaspoon crushed anise seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the zest of two limes, 1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon fish sauce. Bring to a light simmer and continue simmering approximately 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the sauce:

Blend together 1 bunch lemon basil leaves (approximately 1 cup), about 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, 4 jalapenos, seeds and tops removed,  green onions, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil.

When everything is thoroughly chilled and cooled, break off 1/4 cup sized pieces of dough, shape into a ball, and roll out into a flat circle. Fill with a couple tablespoons of filling. Roll over the edges and crimp using a fork or your fingers. You can get pretty fancy with how you secure your empanada edges. I have not gotten that fancy. Brush with egg wash (1 egg whisked together with 1 tablespoon of water) and cook at 400 degrees until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. You can use an air fryer at this step if you have one. Serve hot with generous helpings of the dipping sauce.

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Saucy

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In a food processor, crush 1/4 cup raw almonds until finely ground. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 cup packed basil (if you use purple, it gets to be crushed almond purple sauce), the zest of one lemon, the juice of one lemon, three seeded and de-stemmed red jalapenos, and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Process until smooth. You may need to add additional olive oil to get a consistency you like.

Tastes amazing on roast chicken.

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Roasted Garlic and Chipotle Sauce

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Roast four heads of garlic (instructions available here). When cooled, remove roasted cloves. In a food processor, combine roasted garlic, 1 can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, zest of two limes, juice of one lime, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. Pulse to combine.

This recipe is incredibly easy but the flavor payoff is equally incredible. Because the canned chipotles are pretty mild, this isn’t spicy- just flavorful! I like to use it on the roast chicken, but it tastes amazing on eggs and most savory foods. I’m drizzling the leftover sauce over nachos tonight!

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Mango-a-go-goes with Lime

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I often find that graham cracker crusts are a bit heavily flavored for me and then pies have to be sweeter to hold their own. Plus, the idea of a citrus fruit with shortbread makes me think of Scottish lemon curd on shortbread, which I love together. This tart is my answer to a cheesecake, but this feels a lot lighter and less sweet but still very flavorful.

Shortbread tart:

Combine 1 cup salted butter, 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. When thoroughly combined, press into a pie pan, tart pan, or a springform pan, as I used. Press as thin as you can, and leave a bit going up the walls of your dish, to hold the tart filing later. Cook at 350 for 17-20 minutes. Leave inside your baking dish.

Mango Lime filling:

Puree the flesh of two mangoes, then press the puree through a fine mesh strainer so you’re getting the smooth juice. To that juice, add the zest and juice (about 3 tablespoons) of two limes, one 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, 4 egg yolks, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk that all together, then pour into your tart shell. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Cool on a rack for an hour, then in the fridge for two hours. Serve alone or with whipped cream.

Tajin Whipped Cream:

In a bowl that’s been in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, use a hand or stand mixer to whip 1 cup of cold heavy whipping cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon Tajin or chili powder.

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Savory or Sweet Ricotta Pizza

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Pizza dough:

Combine 3 3/4 cup bread flour (you can use all-purpose if you don’t keep bread flour on hand), 1 teaspoon honey, 1 packet instant dry yeast, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in bowl of a stand mixer. With mixer going, stream in 1 1/2 cups warm but not steaming water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Your dough should combine into a solid ball. If it looks too dry, add an additional tablespoon of water. Dump out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead gently. Grease large bowl with olive oil, place dough inside. Cover with wrap, let sit in a warm place for 1 hour. If it’s never warm where you are, place it on a heating pad set to warm. Makes two 12-14″ crusts.

While the dough is proofing, thinly slice one fennel bulb and saute in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium for 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Ricotta topping:

Combine one container of ricotta cheese (approximately 1.5 cups) with the zest of one small lemon, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

When ready, roll your dough out into two crusts and top with the ricotta mixture. Add fresh arugula, dried tarragon, sauteed fennel, and sliced peppadew peppers. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and a bit of pepper and a light pass of Parmesan. Cook at 425 for 15-20 minutes.

If you don’t keep arugula or fennel on hand (or don’t like them), omit the red pepper flakes and Parmesan. Instead, top with shaved Brussels sprouts, caramelized onions and pomegranate seeds; serve with a squeeze of honey over your slice.

 

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