Friday, August 26, 2005


Harvest Foccacia

Poor little me. I wasn't feeling so hot yesterday (might have been due to overindulging the night before, but then again, who knows) and I found myself craving some good-old-fashioned mindless entertainment. I turned on live TV (Tivo just seemed too complex at that point) and there, beaming out in front of me was Napa based Chef Michael Chiarello merrily whipping up some party food. I forget what the pretense for the meal was, (there always seems to be one on that show) but it all looked sort of simple and elegant, yet hearty and approachable. Very appealing indeed. I paid just enough attention to get the idea of what he was doing with his Harvest Focaccia, before leaping up and setting off to make some of my own, cured of whatever was ailing me for sure. (I never really sit through cooking shows, I tend to get too inspired. Or bothered. Depending on the host.)

Turns out, I have always been a fan of Mr. Chiarello's Southern Italian-Californian cooking. Moons ago, when he still ran the restaurant Tra Vigne I had a few friends who worked for him, and would listen to them absolutly rave about what a swell guy he was, (pretty rare in the cook-to-boss world,) which left me quite impressed. And now he is an Emmy award winning TV personality with cookbooks and products and shows and who knows what else. (He has actually had the products for a decade or so too, so its not like the guy is some Johnny-come-lately) And I say kudos to him.

So after watching his intro schpeil on this, grape, raisin and herb topped bread, I went ahead and made it using my own recipe. The topping includes contrasting textures of the raisins and grapes. The milk in the dough makes the crumb softer and the olive oil adds a terrific chewiness and mouth-feel. There was a great sweetness and richness to it that I enjoyed whole-heartedly. Since I typically leave my foccacia plain, this was an inspired change of pace. Here is the recipe as I made it. I think adding black olives would be awesome too. Try it, and enjoy!

½ cup warm milk
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 packet yeast (1 tablespoon)
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
¼ cup raisins
½ cup red grapes, rinsed and halved
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cups all purpose flour
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, yeast and warm milk, stir to combine and let sit, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, gently heat the olive oil. Remove from the stove and add the grapes, raisins, onion, and oregano. Set aside.

When the starter is foamy (indicating the yeast is active) add the remaining flour, a tablespoon of the oil and 1 cup of water, and knead until elastic (or put in your mixer for three minutes on medium speed. Add ¼ of the grape mixture and mix in thoroughly. Coat the dough with some oil, cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rise for 45 minutes.

Using some of the flavored oil, coat the bottom of a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides.) When the dough has risen, remove from the bowl, and shape into a long rectangle in the pan. Using your fingers, create a few impressions (dimples) in the dough, then add the grape mixture on top.

Bake in a 400F oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool. Slice and serve.

Makes enough for 8 people


There are at approximatley 850 wineries in California. Roughly half of these wineries sell less than 5,000 cases and the largest 25 ship 90 percent of all California wine to markets worldwide.

"Toasted Sandwiches are hot. In January, The Subway sandwich chain armed itself with new high-tech ovens and began offering customers nationwide the option of toasting their sandwiches. McDonalds Corp. the world's largest restaurant chain, is testing deli-style sandwiches, some toasted, at about 400 of its 13,600-plus U.S. restaurants...Helped along by toasty offerings, sandwich shop sales grew by 9.5% last year, to $16.8 billion...Aside from the novelty of toasted subs made-to-order, customized foods are perceived as healthier" - Wall Street Journal

Does dairy help you lose weight? Doubtful. "It is not a case of drink milk, lose weight. It works only for people who eat a low-calorie diet and who are not already consuming three servings of dairy. That's a bit more nuanced than the "Lose More Weight" and "Burn More Fat" emblazoned across the packaging of a growing array of dairy products..."

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OH hey, I changed the font colors...I hope the pages are more readable now!
cool website - thanks for the recipe - i'm going to try it tonight!
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