I was in the produce aisle, headed towards some peaches and I look up at the woman whose parked cart is blocking my way and she's beaming at me. I smiled back briefly and expected her to to move but she didn't. She kept smiling intently like she was waiting for something. I thought that perhaps I knew her; that she might be a friend of the family that I just didn't recognize immediately. I inspected her face quizzically for any signs of familiarity, but nothing was ringing a bell and she didn't offer up any clues. She just kept staring and smiling. I wondered if perhaps I looked funny, if I had something on my shirt. It wasn't worth waiting for it to be pointed out to me so I said, "excuse me" and clumsily attempted to lift my basket over her un-budging cart. She extended her hand and said, "hi." "I'm sorry, do I know you?" as I took her hand, guilty for not remembering someone. Her husband, off picking out green beans, turned and answered for her, "no, she just likes saying 'hi'." He had a kind, slightly apologetic face that seemed to thank me in advance for humoring a wife that had slipped off the rocker. He kept an eye on us as she shook my hand emphatically, telling me her name. I told her it was good to meet her. Then she opened her arms and we hugged. We held each other for a long time. Her lipstick, her cropped haircut, her embroidered denim shirt didn't reveal how frail her body felt. Like an old woman. or a bird. We released each other then embraced again. I held her as strong as I could. She seemed so small that it made my 5'2" body feel like Hercules curled around a robin's egg. She said, " I love you" and I said, "I love you, too." For a few moments, everything stopped--the people pushing shopping carts stopped, the buzz of the refrigerator cases stopped, peaches, pears, grapes stopped. and all that hurt that builds up in us over time was eclipsed by this hug with no barriers and no questions. I knew that for whatever had gone haywire in her brain, this contact is what she needed. and then I thought that this is exactly what I needed today, too. the two of us, strangers hugging like reunited friends next to the potatoes and bananas, telling each other in some way that everything was going to be OK.
Her husband called her away, I put my hand on her shoulder to say goodbye. She was still beaming. then I stuffed some zucchini into my basket with trembling hands and burst into tears.

Jeweled Rice Ring

There is nothing in this rice "ring" that is specifically for Rosh Hashanah. In fact, nuts are typically not eaten. However I couldn't help myself from making it as the accompaniment to the Pomegranate Glazed Chicken, since both are Persian-esque and the "gem"-studded white rice looks fabulous next to the ruby-colored chicken. I love how this rice is so colorful and so so so fragrant. It is festive and the circular shape is traditionally a metaphor for a complete and full year.

My rice ring is inspired by two of the most beautiful cookbooks I know of--Diana Henry's Crazy Water Pickled Lemons and Poopa Dweck's Aromas of Aleppo--both of which are so full of gorgeous photographs and stories or histories that they could live on the coffee table and never make it to the kitchen. I've made Diana Henry's Jeweled Persian Rice recipe to the letter and it was delicious....but I doubt I'll ever have the stamina to do it again. I've dramatically simplified her idea and merged it with Poopa Dweck's technique of baking rice in a ring mold to make this attractive and only moderately labor-intensive rice dish.

Jeweled Rice Ring

  • 1 1/2 C basmati rice
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1.5 oz slivered almonds
  • 1.5 oz pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 T dried rose petals (make sure they're for food, not potpourri. If you can't find them, you could add some rose-flower water along with the saffron.)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4-1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1.5 oz raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 1 oz dried cranberries, sour cherries, barberries, or golden raisins, also plumped and drained.

Rinse the rice very thoroughly(until the water doesn't look to starchy), then soak in a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Toast the nuts in a dry pan. Soak the saffron in 2 T of hot water. Mix cinnamon, cardamom, and rose petals together in small bowl and set aside.

Use the big hole in a zester to make strips out of the orange peels OR remove the peels, separate and discard the pith, and julienne the peel. Place the peel strips in a small pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes then drain and rinse.

Julienne the carrots, cutting them into strips about 3 inches long. Heat the oil and 1 T of the butter in a pan and saute the carrot until it starts to soften, for about 4 minutes. Add the orange peel and sugar and continue to cook for another minute. Pour in the saffron water, nuts and dried fruit. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300°. Drain and rinse the rice. In a large saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add the rice and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring. Then add ~2 2/3 C water (how much water depends on how you like your rice and how long you soaked it--more water, tenderer rice). Bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, covered and unbothered for 5 minutes. Then fluff rice with a fork.

Spray a rice mold or bundt pan with non-stick spray. Spoon half of the carrot/orange mix into the pan, spreading it evenly over the bottom. Then spoon in half of the rice, sprinkling with half of the spice mixture. Then layer the remaining carrot/orange mix, spices and rice, gently pushing down to firm into the mold. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and invert onto a platter. You could drizzle it with melted butter to up the shine!

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken

Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vine has budded
if the blossoms have opened
and the pomegranate is in flower
There I will give you my love.
The air is filled with the scent of mandrakes
and at our doors
rare fruit of every kind, my love,
I have stored away for you.
(Song of Solomon, 7:12)

Pomegranates are just overflowing with antioxidants --and symbolism, throughout history and throughout the world. There are two reasons we eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah. First, the fruit is believed to have 613 seeds, the same as the number of miztvot (commandments...or "acts of kindness") we are supposed to enact--and therefore they are considered a sacred fruit. Actually according to the California Pomegranate Council, they contain closer to 850 seeds, so I guess we got off easy with only 613 deeds. For this reason, pomegranates show up in texts, design and decoration.
The second reason pomegranates are eaten is that they are often used as a "new fruit"--something we have not yet tasted this season. Eating this new fruit is a reminder to be grateful we've made into this year and to be present in the turning of the seasons. I was going to put up a quince post as my "new fruit" since I almost never eat quince and pomegranates, like penguins, are so hip these days, it's hard to not ingest them in some product or I might do two new fruits...
I always like watching the fall come by seeing apples and pears appear at the store, since we don't really have "seasons" here. But everyday for the past few weeks, a thought floats through my head about a certain young person who, unlike me, isn't getting to watch the days get shorter, feel the mornings get crisper, or crunch into the first fall apple this year. So this year especially, I'm trying to pause and enjoy the sensory bounty of my surroundings enough for two.
Pomegranate Glazed Chicken is super-easy. I got a recipe for pomegranate chicken(by Rebecca Ets-Hokin) a few years ago from a clipping my mom gave me. I love Fesenjan, a Persian stew with pomegranate, chicken and walnuts--except that it is brownish and lumpy, making it not particularly elegant to serve. I've been tweaking this other chicken recipe to be a riff on fesenjan--I added spices and serve it sprinkled with toasted walnuts, mint, and sometimes sauteed onions. It ends up crowd-pleasing, like a slightly exotic barbecue-sauce chicken.

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken

  • 3-4 lbs chicken pieces
  • salt &pepper

  • Glaze:
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 C pomegranate molasses
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of cardamom or cayenne (optional)

  • 1/2 C toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 2 T chopped fresh mint leaves (cilantro or flat-leaf parsley work if you don't like mint)
  • pomegranate seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Mix the ingredients for the glaze together in a small bowl. Salt and pepper the chicken and place in a baking dish. Brush with the glaze and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30-40 minutes, turning about every 10 minutes. Sprinkle with walnuts and mint and serve.

Black Eyed Pea Salad with Roasted Peppers and Pomegranate

Yesterday I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Big time. I was having one of these mopey post-MFA moments where I was feeling like despite all the hard work and careful planning, I've just been running on the hamster wheel, accomplishing nothing. This degree didn't land me my dream job, an ounce of clout, or even a good story to tell. But gotta keep going. Even though I would have liked to spend the entire day wallowing, I had a lunch invitation, so I attempted to hide the puffy eyes with mascara and tried to focus on being helpful and gracious.
It's hard to admit to myself that this year will most likely not be the year where I win an award, have a sold-out solo show, or strike oil in my backyard. So I'm trying to be realistic about what I hope to accomplish. I'm thinking it's better to make little goals and meet them than to make lofty ones and meet nothing. It would be nice if merits were always as clear cut as Brownie badges or resumé bullets (or if I could use my Brownie badges as resumé bullets)...but I'm learning to focus instead on the small actions that sometimes mean big things to other people. Today I made my students laugh so hard they were rolling on the floor (they made me laugh that hard, too) and perhaps that is an adequate starting point.

Black eyed peas in Hoppin' John are traditional new year's food for the American south, but I learned recently that they are also one of the Sephardic new year's foods (sans ham). The name for black eyed peas in Hebrew and Aramaic, rubiyah, is similar to the word "to increase," so we hope that in this year, our merits will increase. In addition, their small size makes them appear bountiful in the serving bowl so, along with grains, couscous and seeds, they represent abundance.

This salad is another symbolic triple-whammy with black eyed peas, bulgur wheat, and pomegranate--all three representing wishes for plentiful good deeds. So this salad is teeming with merits( and fiber and antioxidants). I based this salad off of a recipe from Bon Appetit, but I altered it to echo the flavors of the delicious pomegranate-walnut dip, muhammara. It should be served room temperature or cold.

Salad of Black Eyed Peas and Bulgur with Roasted Peppers and Pomegranate Dressing

  • 3 T pomegranate molasses (available at specialty and mid-east markets)
  • 2T olive oil
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt & pepper

  • 1 1/2 C chopped onion + oil for sautéing
  • 1 C bulgur
  • 1 C water or broth
  • 1 large red bell pepper, roasted and chopped
  • 1 C canned or cooked black eyed peas
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 C flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 C fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1-1 1/2 C chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 C walnuts, toasted and chopped

For dressing:
Whisk together pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl. Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper.

For salad:
Warm a little oil in a big skillet and cook the onion until it is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the bulgur, stir a minute. Then pour in the broth/water and simmer, covered, 5 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the beans, pepper, and green onion. Cover it again and let stand about 5 more minutes. Transfer to a bowl, then stir in the herbs and dressing. You can do this about 2 hours ahead. Add the tomatoes and walnuts just before serving to keep it from getting soggy. Serve at room temperature.

Moroccan Spiced Carrot Coins

I forgot to put carrots on my to-do list apparently. However, carrots (sliced into rounds) are a traditional Rosh Hashanah dish because they are reminiscent of gold coins, symbolizing prosperity and bounty. In addition, the Yiddish word for carrots, "meren," also means "to increase." Of course we should wish for wealth in all senses of the word, but this year especially, a little more of the literal stuff for everyone would be helpful :)
I used to love when my mom would make "carrot coins" with honey--soft and sweet was easy on a kid's palate. Instead of a more common Rosh Hashanah tzimmes, I took this version to the other side of the world--the spicing more exotic and the sweetness toned down just a hair. I used both pomegranate molasses and honey, both for Rosh Hashanah. The carrots should be eaten at room temperature and they get better after sitting a while. Leftovers make a great sandwich filling next to some spreadable cheese and harissa (I'll give a harissa recipe after I make it through the sweet stuff).

Carrot Coins

  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp whole coriander seeds, toasted and gently crushed
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne or to taste (**if you have harissa, use it!)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses (or to taste)
  • 4 tsp lemon juice or to taste (i usually use more)
  • salt & pepper

Steam the carrots over boiling water until just tender, 7-9 minutes. (Alternately, you could do this in the microwave.) Shock them in cold water and drain. Heat the oil in a skillet over med-high heat, add the garlic and cook a minute or so until it smells good. Add the spices, honey, pom molasses, and carrots. Stir for another minute until the carrots are glazed with the mixture. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Salad of Beets, Apple, and Lavender Honey Goat Cheese

It's going to be sweet here for a little while.

Since most of the food here is Cali-Fusion something, I figure I'll go with the flow and do some Cali-Sephardic dishes for the upcoming new year; adapting, simplifying and lightening some symbolic/traditional foods. I'm a sucker for ritual and Rosh Hashanah happens to serve plenty of it. There are is a substantial list (depending on where you're from) of foods that are traditional to eat to mark the new, complete the old, and remind us to wish for a sweet, plentiful, safe year ahead. These foods may be symbolic because they are sweet, because of their shapes, or because their name sounds like another desirable word. Even though I'm not that superstitious, I feel it can't hurt to make some "lucky" food---and I'm hoping that just setting intentions for the new year will be the catalyst to actualizing goals. So here's my to-do list: Apples, Beets, Black-eyed peas, Challah (round), Dates, Fenugreek maybe, Honey, Leeks, Pomegranate, Pumpkin, Quince...I'm going to try but please forgive me if I don't get through it all.

So to kill two or three birds with one stone: beets, apples, and honey. The word for beets (and spinach) sounds like the word for removal--so to eat them is to hope for the removal of adversaries (perhaps figuratively) or obstacles in our path. Every once in a while it feels like the blockade of cars ahead of me parts, my lane clears, and all the lights turn green...but that's a pretty rare thing. Though it's easier said than done, I've tried (with little success) to have a paradigm shift. To think of getting stuck in traffic not as a dare to my blood-pressure, but rather as an opportunity to listen to books on tape or to sing/howl loudly without anyone knowing. I usually end up fuming, counting the seconds that have been wasted from my life, which doesn't help me get anywhere any faster. Perhaps this year I will be better at seeing roadblocks as coming with silver linings.
I love beets and have gone through many many recipes. I decided to make up something new with this (more Cali than Sephardic) salad. I figured beets go well with goat cheese, which goes well with lavender, which goes well with honey, which goes well with apples, which are traditional, too. I decided to cut everything into rounds, since round shapes are also customary to represent continuity and completeness. Because of the shape, we were eating them like stacks or sandwiches-- but be reminded that beets are not a finger food (see picture)!

the obstacle with beets, red fingers

The recipe is kind of loose because I just threw it together from what was in the kitchen. Vary it to your taste or sweetness limit.

Salad of Beets, Apples, and Lavender Honey Goat Cheese

  • 4 small-medium beets
  • 2 small apples, peeled and cored
  • soft goat cheese
  • ~1 tsp honey
  • ~1/2-1 tsp lavender

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2T lemon juice
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • ~1 tsp honey
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 tsp lavender (optional)

Wrap the beets individually in 2 layers of foil, adding a dab of butter to each packet. Place them on a baking dish and roast the beets at 375° until tender, 30-60 minutes.
While the beets are roasting, mash the goat cheese with some lavender and honey, to taste. Shape the mixture into a log by wrapping it in plastic wrap and pressing it into shape. Pop it in the fridge to let it firm a little, to help with slicing. Alternately, you could make little balls and flatten them into rounds.
Remove the beets from oven and let cool enough so you can handle them. Then, (I like to wear gloves) rub the skins right off the beets and slice them into rounds. Slice the apples into rounds as well. Then slice the goat cheese log into rounds and arrange everything on a platter, individual plates, or make stacks.
Whisk together, oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey and season as you like. Drizzle and serve!

Mix Tapes, Resolutions, Snow Eggs

My wonderful old friend, Adam, is an artist, a maker of things, and has been my solace since I returned to the Bay.  The other night we were having that "'s the (art) work going?" conversation.  He told me that when feeling discouraged from writing, he started making mix tapes---making his own new creation out of existing sounds.  It seemed like a perfect parallel to how I start cooking when feeling thwarted in the studio.  I get this image of kids endlessly trying to block the trickle of hose water on the pavement just to watch the stream be diverted in another direction. Both of us in some way turn to combining, arranging, metamorphosing ingredients to fill the drive to put something out into the world. Truly, my chopping up and re-fusing  2x4s, audio clips and moving images is not that much different than what I do with vegetables for a salad.  I'd been thinking that maybe I was mixing as an outlet because there's less pressure to create something "original" when working with what's already there.  But Adam told me he thinks of everything as "scratch"--rather than nothing being new, everything is new.  I love this idea.  It's liberating.
As I've been gearing up for the New Year this weekend, I've been thinking about all those lists of resolutions I write then cache, hoping that keeping them forever tucked in sock drawers and books will make them come true.  I write the same resolutions every single year.  Even though I probably improve by a millimeter or so, it feels like an exercise in futility to keep hoping for the same changes in myself.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to feel like I'm starting from scratch rather than repeating myself?  Or that I could reconfigure what I already have to transform it? Perhaps I will always taste like the components I'm made of, but it's nice to dream for a possibility of transmuting the flavors.
Eggs seemed like an appropriate starting point because they are pretty much potential (chicken) in a shell.  It  makes me think about this iconic PSA demonstration. They can go from one form to another and completely alter what ever else they are added to.  Snow Eggs (Oeufs a la Neige) starts off like it could be an omelette, a quiche, french toast, ice cream--eggs, milk.  But in Snow Eggs, the transformative properties of eggs are exploited two ways--they become both an airy puff of poached meringue and a rich but thin custard.  They get deconstructed and reshaped into something un-eggy entirely.  It is surprisingly simple for how novel the result ends up looking.  Since I'm having a little nostalgia for the Persian confections at Wholesome Choice,  I decided to dissect those flavors and add them to my snow egg mix tape. I replaced the traditional vanilla with saffron (in the custard), rosewater (in the meringue) and pistachios (on the top).  As usual, the weather turns muggy as soon as I'm about to make meringue....this time there was a thunderstorm (very rare in these parts) but I gave it a shot anyways.
Snow Eggs with Saffron, Rose, and Pistachio
  • 3 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C + 1 T sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated (best to separate while they're cold thenbeat the whites at room temp.)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch (you don't really need this.  Custard and I don't get along, so I cheat)
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 tsp rosewater, or to taste
  • chopped pistachios for sprinkling
  • sour cherries (optional)

Bring 2 1/2 C of milk & 1/2 C sugar to a gentle simmer in a large saucepan, whisking to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile, in a metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks.  Beat in the 1 T of sugar and beat until they form stiff peaks.  Gently beat in the rosewater.  With a spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop 2 smallish balls out of egg white into the simmering milk.  Poach for 2-3 minutes, and gently turn.  When they are slightly firm, remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a plastic wrap-lined platter.  Continue this process until all the egg white balls are poached.  Cover the poached meringues loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until you're ready for them.  
Dissolve the saffron threads into 1/2 C of cold milk and whisk it with egg yolks  and cornstarch ( if using--cheaters!) in a small bowl.  Whisk 1/2 C of the warm milk from poaching into the cold yolk mixture.  Then add the cold mixture to the warm milk and bring to an almost boil while whisking constantly.  Cook until thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.  Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool to room temp.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming  and chill in the fridge.  
When ready to serve, spoon the custard into individual dishes, float a meringue "egg" in the custard and top with the pistachios.  

Strawberry Balsamic Ice cream

Strawberry Balsamic ice cream could be a top contender for my "Valentine's Day Flavor"....if Valentine's Day fell in the summer.  And not just because the ice cream comes out a pretty dark pink color (though that is 90 % of my reasoning).  
Admittedly, strawberry used to be my last pick when offered the Neapolitan options of cheap, fluffy, wooden-spoon ice cream at end-of-the-year school picnics.  I would make an effort to run to the line fast enough to be able to choose something good.  Like chocolate.  Then vanilla, if I had to.  

But I thought I'd try again as a "grown-up" and I found this ice cream to be an entirely different creature.  Using real strawberries and real cream certainly helps.  The balsamic adds a welcome shading to the childhood summer classic.  It brings out the sweetness of the berries while adding a deeper layer to the potentially cloying and naive.  It is simple and rich and perfect for the shortening days of the season--pure celebration of the last summer fruit with a hint of roasted darkness.   It is light-hearted and adult, straightforward and a touch enigmatic.  And pink.

I've made a version of the extremely simple recipe (4 ingredients! no custard!) from Frozen Desserts before, but this time I took Kevin from Closet Cooking's the brilliant idea of roasting the berries, which really amps it up. I cut back on the sugar and added a little lemon and pepper to add  brightness and complexity.

  • 1 lb of strawberries (frozen works, too if you want to do it in February)
  • 2 T of nice balsamic vinegar
  • generous 1/2 C of superfine sugar
  • 10 T of heavy cream (1/2 C plus 2 T)
  • smallest sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
  • tiniest drop of lemon juice

Clean and dry the strawberries.  Mix them in a bowl with the sugar and vinegar.  If you are using fresh berries, bruise them up a little.  Let sit in the fridge for 30 min. or longer to give the flavors time to merge.  Pour the mixture into a small baking dish and roast for about 20 minutes in a preheated 450° oven, stirring once or twice.  Pour into a bowl, reserving the liquid and chill in the fridge for a couple hours.  Puree the mixture in a blender.  I like some chunks, so I just pulse until it looks how I like it.  But it's up to you.  Stir in the very cold cream, pepper and lemon juice.  Transfer to an ice-cream maker and do what the machine's directions tell you.  When it's done, put it in a container covered with a piece of wax paper and pop it in the freezer for a little while before eating.

Grape, Lavender and Rosemary Focaccia

Rosie, our dog, perceives an entirely different universe when we're out on a walk. She knows exactly where to sniff, dig, and mark from some signals completely beyond my radar. As I am becoming reacquainted with the place I grew up, I'm thinking we (humans) must experience something similar. The slant of the sunlight, the cool mornings, and shrinking days that mark the beginning of fall also bring back a flood of memories of years of "back to school," over-eager Halloween costume plannings and farewells to the swimming pool and its Otterpops ... I keep getting lost driving over the roads I've been over a thousand times before; It's not that I don't know how to get to where I need to go--I just keep turning the wrong direction for some reason, like there's a disconnect between the present physical space and the space of memory. I'm starting to see it like those ant farms that kids play with...beneath the smooth sand lies a whole nother world of interconnected tunnels. As I'm walking around a seemingly normal place, I could easily slip down into the subterranean labyrinth of memory routes made years before.
There is something about bread making that seems to tie together the concrete present and the floating past. Maybe it's the tactile experience of handling the dough in combination with fleeting but palpable scent that fills the house when it bakes. Maybe it's because it forces you to wait, watch, and feel. Or perhaps because I've done it before and I'll do it again.
Right now it's hard to drive by the California Oak-dotted golden hills here in the Bay Area and not think about a glass of chardonnay--a great reminder to use up some grapes. I also really love lavender and I think it is far underused. I remember looking through a friend's mom's garden herb cookbook years ago and seeing a recipe for lavender focaccia. I've been meaning to try it since. So, I added rosemary and sea salt and adapted a focaccia recipe from Bon Apetit. In this bread, the lavender combines nicely with the rich sweetness the of the roasted grapes and makes the whole thing fragrant and full of pretty fall colors. This focaccia is a simple, quick bread to make. No kneading--just gentle stretching and gentle finger poking. You can make this bread sweeter by sprinkling sugar on top or adding honey, but I think it is better treated as savory--sprinkled with salt and dipped in balsamic and oil.

  • 1 C lukewarm water (85°F to 95°F)
  • 1/2 tablespoon yeast
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (about) bread flour

  • bunch of grapes (I used red)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoons lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoons coarse sea salt OR course sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large bowl. Mix in all but 1 T of the oil and salt. Stir in about a 1/2 C of the flour until mixed in. Then add the remaining flour, a scoop at a time until the dough is sticky, bumpy and soft. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Oil a baking sheet and gently transfer the dough to the sheet, gently stretching it out, doing your best not to deflate it. It should cover about half the baking sheet. Press your fingertips into the dough to make little indentations. Brush on the remaining tablespoon of oil (or less). I used my Misto to spray the oil on, which works great. Place the grapes all over the dough, gently pushing them into the dough. Sprinkle on the
herbs and the salt or sugar depending on how sweet you want to be. This is a good time to preheat the oven to 375. Let the dough rise for another 15-30 minutes like that. Then bake in a preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool and eat soon!