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/

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Lentil-escarole-salad-with-roasted-sweet-potatoes

I’m on a roll with my Italian bitter greens, looks like. I grabbed a bunch of escarole yesterday while I was grocery shopping, bypassing the baby spinach-arugula-mixed lettuce I’ve gotten into the habit of buying.

Do you remember the time before prewashed salad came in plastic boxes? It seems like a lonnnnng time ago when I used to buy fresh, whole heads of lettuce, wash and dry them in my salad spinner. I know! The labor! The convenience of those containers of greens has made me lazy, I regret.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing whole heads of salad greens. For one, there are certain varieties that don’t come packaged in a little box – like Little Gem, which is like a small, tender version of Romaine. And speaking of Romaine, whenever I buy a head of it to make homemade Caesar salad instead of those bags of pale, wilted hearts, I appreciate how great Romaine is: leafy, crunchy and sweet.

escarole

But back to the subject – I didn’t mean to go off on a salad tangent. Actually, when I was growing up escarole rarely appeared raw in a salad. Rather it was the star – along with tiny meatballs – in a delicious soup my mom would make for holidays or what came before the main course at family weddings. I’m going to have to scout out that recipe…

Escarole was made for a hearty, wintery salad like this one. I cooked tiny black lentils and mixed them with some leftover roasted sweet potatoes. The contrast of colors in the bowl perked up the gray day outside, in a big way.

lentil-salad-with-escarole-and-sweet-potato

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Serving Size: serves 4

Any size or color lentils will be great in this salad, However, I like tiny green French or black lentils because they keep their shape after cooking

Ingredients

1 cup lentils – any size or color

Salt

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons wine or sherry vinegar

Fresh ground black pepper

1 small bunch escarole, outer leaves removed

1 cup diced, roasted sweet potatoes *

Instructions

  1. Cook the lentils with 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan of boiling water about 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain the lentils and mix in a bowl with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Trim off the stem of the escarole and slice into bite-sized pieces; add to the lentils along with the sweet potatoes and toss together.

Notes

*To roast sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or chunks (no need to peel) and toss on a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven about 20 minutes, until tender and lightly brown.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/escarole-lentil-salad-with-sweet-potatoes/

Tuscan Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Somewhere along the line I got into a habit of eating my daily greens, and by daily I mean All Day, even starting at breakfast with a little pile of leafy greens near, under or around my poached egg. Sometimes it’s baby arugula or maybe washed salad greens leftover from dinner the night before.

I have a favorite method of quickly cooking my greens Italian-style, but this here kale salad might be my favorite way to eat them just plain raw. It’s easy to put together and the sturdy kale leaves hold up so well with the lemony-Parmesan dressing you could even make it hours ahead of time with no fear of a wilted soggy salad – in fact, it only improves matters.

You’ll probably love the roasted chickpeas as much as I do – they garnish the salad very nicely but become an addictive (and yes, healthy) little snack all by themselves.

If you can’t find Tuscan kale – which is also called Lacinato, cavolo nero, black or Dinosaur kale – regular curly kale will do.

Tuscan kale with roasted chickpeas

Tuscan Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Yield: 4 servings, or one salad for 1 hungry person

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas, drained

1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton)

Kosher salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 big lemon, zested and juiced

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

1 small garlic clove, smashed and chopped

Pinch Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes

1 bunch Tuscan kale, stems trimmed and washed

Instructions

  1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the chickpeas on a small rimmed baking sheet with the Pimenton, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast the chickpeas for 10 - 12 minutes - they should smell good and become a little bit crunchy.
  3. Whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the lemon zest and juice, cheese, garlic and red pepper. Taste and season with a pinch of salt if you think it needs some.
  4. Roughly tear the kale leaves into pieces and blot with a clean towel if they're dripping wet; put into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss the leaves with your hands so that they're evenly coated - your hands will taste yummy.
  5. Serve the salad with some of the chickpeas spooned over the top and sprinkled with curls of Parmesan, if you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/02/tuscan-kale-salad-with-roasted-chickpeas/