gorgonzola focaccia, chicory and walnuts

gorgonzola-focaccia-walnuts-chicory

I grew up eating a version of pizza made at neighborhood bakeries; long, doughy rectangles layered in wax paper, piled into a brown cardboard cake box and tied up with a piece of string.

After a few hours, the oil would seep through the layers of paper and make random stains on the bottom of the cardboard. We enjoyed it straight out of the box as a snack all through the day, especially during those times between lunch and dinner or to stave off hunger after school.

Unlike the crusty pie ordered hot from a pizzeria on a Friday night, it was best cold or at room temperature and topped simply with a thick layer of rich, reduced tomato sauce – and no cheese.

gorgonzola focaccia with walnuts and chicory

I always knew them as “pizza strips” and I didn’t connect the dots until years later that my favorite snack was a type of focaccia, with a distinctly Italian-American spin.

I still love pizza strips. They are very much a tradition in Southern New England although those family bakeries don’t populate the map as profusely as they once did. My kids chow on pizza strips when we visit my family in Rhode Island – there’s nothing like them in the Midwest where they live now.

The focaccia I’m presenting here – with its topping of sweet-savory caramelized onions, bitter greens, gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts – is only distantly related to the strips I described. It’s the base that bears a similarity; a basic pizza dough enriched with olive oil.

Check out this post from Almost Italian for an authentic take on pizza strips.

Also, Goat Cheese, Roasted Grape and Walnut Bruschette from A Little Saffron are a delicious inspiration.

gorgonzola focaccia with red onion, chicory and walnuts

Serving Size: 8 slices

For this recipe I used Petite Tango, a curly, spicy lettuce I found in an assortment of heirloom greens at the grocery store. If you can't find it, use leaves from a head of chicory or frisee.

Ingredients

For focaccia dough:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

For topping:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup each shredded radicchio and baby chicory or frisee

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, yeast and oil in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup water.
  2. Mix on medium speed until dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Cover bowl loosely with a towel and let rest 5 minutes.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough for 1 minute – the dough should be fairly sticky but stretchy.
  4. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk; about 2 hours. Alternatively, cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, let the dough come to room temperature and let rise until doubled in bulk.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sugar and salt. Stir, then lower heat and cover the pan.
  6. Cook 15 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Uncover and continue cooking until the onions are deep brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and set aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  8. Place the dough on an oiled 13 x 9-inch rimmed baking pan and spread the dough toward the edges of the pan – it will spring back and not quite reach. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.
  9. Gently dimple the dough while stretching with your fingers to evenly cover the pan the rest of the way. Bake 10 minutes.
  10. Distribute the onions over the top of the focaccia and bake another 10 minutes.
  11. Sprinkle the cheese, radicchio, chicory and walnuts over the onions and return to the oven; bake an additional 5 minutes to slightly melt the cheese and wilt the greens.
  12. Cut into serving pieces with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/gorgonzola-focaccia-chicory-and-walnuts/

Ricotta Flatbread with Pomegranate Salsa

It’s late fall again and the beginning of my favorite time of year for cooking. There’s such a great variety of produce piled up in the markets having their “it” moment right now it’s almost overwhelming. I want to gather everything up and devour it all before it’s gone.

I’m thinking of the fruits that were recently harvested – apples and pears that haven’t been in cold storage for months and months; the last of the late season figs, and the fleeting appearance of big, beautiful jeweled-red pomegranates.

Ever since I first made this recipe for Pomegranate Relish from chef Suzanne Goin’s cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques it’s been a favorite. I made it this time around with some dried cranberries to top some creamy ricotta-topped flatbread.

This month I’m sharing a few other favorite recipes and ideas for Thanksgiving entertaining at the Wisconsin Cheese blog - go check it out.

Ricotta Flatbread with Pomegranate Salsa

Yield: 6 - 8 servings

Ingredients

½ cup pomegranate seeds

½ cup dried, sweetened cranberries; roughly chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh orange zest strips

Pinch salt

1 oval pre-baked flatbread, such as naan or pocketless pita

8 ounces Bel Gioioso Ricotta con Latte

½ cup baby arugula

Instructions

  1. Combine pomegranate seeds, cranberries, shallot, oil, vinegar, honey, parsley, orange zest and salt in a bowl.
  2. Place flatbread on a preheated grill rack or baking stone in a 450-degree oven; toast until warm and edges are lightly toasted, 5 – 10 minutes.
  3. Spoon ricotta over warm flatbread and spread lightly. Arrange arugula over ricotta; cut into serving pieces. Top each slice with salsa.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/11/ricotta-flatbread-with-pomegranate-salsa/

BLTs with Basil Aioli and Five-Minute Grilled Flatbread

BLT sandwich on quick grilled flatbread
I love the Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, and one of my all-time favorite pieces from his book “It Must Have Been Something I Ate” is the one about his search for perfect pizza, which, in true Steingartian fashion sends him on a mission to reproduce the flavor and taste of a true Neapolitan-style pizza crust at home.

Steingarten estimates that in order to achieve blistered, dense and delicious crusts a person needs to simulate the heat of a true wood-fired oven that can achieve extremely hot temperatures, somewhere in the range between 650 and 950 degrees, which proves to be just about impossible to accomplish unless you happen to have a heavy-duty commercial oven. His most successful attempt turns out to be firing up a Weber charcoal grill and placing a pizza stone directly on the rack; when the charcoal is arranged properly (more toward the sides of the stone than piled right under it) your everyday barbecue grill is transformed into a little pizza oven. I tried this method and it seems to work pretty well.

After browsing through a new cookbook called Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas yesterday and getting hungry, I made a simple unleavened dough and lit the grill. I actually wanted to make hot BLT sandwiches for dinner, and thought the bread would be an interesting twist. And since it was so spur of the moment, the dough recipe was a good choice since it doesn’t require yeast or rising time. It doesn’t have the fermented flavor that a good yeasted pizza or flatbread has, but for a quick, interesting meal it was satisfying and fun to make.

This method of cooking on the grill would work with any dough you have, even prepared pizza dough from the bakery or grocery store. I’ve also used this very easy recipe for 5-minute pizza dough from Sara Moulton with excellent results.

BLT’s with Basil Aioli on Grilled Flatbread

Prepared pizza dough or Piadina dough (recipe follows)
Basil Aioli (recipe follows)
Fresh arugula or other greens
Cooked bacon
Sliced ripe tomatoes

Light your charcoal or gas grill to medium-high, arranging coals around edges of the grill once they are hot and glowing. (use long tongs and a heavy-duty oven mitts for this). Place a pizza stone on the rack and heat until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates on contact.

Cut the dough into 3-inch pieces and roll them out on a floured surface into roughly 6-inch diameter rounds.

Place the dough on the stone and cook until both sides are browned and blistered, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from the stone and spread each with some Basil Aioli. Top with greens, bacon and tomatoes. Fold over loosely and eat like a sandwich.

Basil Aioli
1/2 cup mayonnaise, regular or reduced fat ( I prefer Hellmann’s)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for up to one day.

Piadina Dough (Instant Unleavened Pizza Dough)
Adapted from Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas by Craig W. Priebe

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Process just until the dough comes together, about 15 pulses. Dump the dough on to a floured surface and knead until soft and springy. Cover with plastic wrap to rest for about 15 minutes.

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