Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grilled Herb and Cherry Tomato Focaccia

In my former life as a resident of an island in the northwest corner of the beautiful state of Washington, I would have traded most anything for a week of 85 degree days.  I spent nearly 9 years as a sun and warmth starved New Jersey transplant.  It was rough on me.  My summer wardrobe consisted of quite a few pairs of capri pants and only 1 or 2 pairs of shorts.  It just never really got warm enough.  Sleeveless tops were only for layering, never for being worn all by themselves.  I became a layering expert because the summer weather was predictably unpredictable.  And a bathing suit?  Forget about it- I never needed one.
Now I'm happily living as a Southern Californian, enjoying the almost year-round summer.  I can grow veggies in my garden through the winter and my stash of shorts has grown exponentially.  Until the few days every August when the weather turns hot, I'm as content as can be.  The biggest problem right now- it's hotter inside than it is outside.

My house's lack of air conditioning drives me from my kitchen.  I can't stand to turn on the stove or the oven.  Case in point- two days ago I had picked pounds and pounds of figs and needed to turn them into jam.  The only time it was cool enough to fire up the stove was after I tucked my boys in bed.  And even then I had the back door and windows wide open.
Fast forward a day and it hasn't cooled off any.  I'm grilling Greek-style and making a tomato salad so I don't need to go near the kitchen ( I made these delicious Greek inspired chicken drumsticks).  The big question is, how to get some bread to dip in the tzatziki without turning on my oven and turning my kitchen into a sauna.  Then it hit me- the grill.  If I can roast a whole turkey on it, I can bake bread there too.  Hooray!  It's not pita and its not Greek, but man this bread is good.  And it made fast friends with my tzatziki.  Now, I'm off to dream about really being in Greece with the white sands, sea breezes, and some else to bake my pita bread for me...

Grilled Herb and Cherry Tomato Focaccia
Makes 2 8-in diameter focaccia loavesRecipe adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
For a printable recipe, click here.

This recipe is a slightly altered version of my standard no-knead bread.  You can go nuts with the toppings or leave the bread plain as can be.  It's quite easy to make and only requires you to think of it early in the day so that you can mix up the dough.  Then go to the beach (like I did) and don't give it another thought.

1 2/3 cups warm water
2 1/2 tsp quick rise dry yeast
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the baking pan
2 tsp sugar
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-2 tbs chopped fresh herbs
small handful halved cherry tomatoes

In a large container or bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the herbs and tomatoes.  Cover loosely and leave on the counter for about 2 hours.  At this point you can use the dough or refrigerate it up to one week.

Turn on your gas grill to a medium high heat about 20 minutes before you intend to make the bread.  You want it to reach 450 degrees.  Coat the bottom of an 8 inch metal cake pan or pie tin with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.

Pull off a large orange-sized piece of dough and flatten or stretch it until it is about 1/2 inch thick.  Place the dough in the cake pan and sprinkle the herbs over the top.  Lightly press the tomatoes, cut side down, into the dough.  Let it rest while the grill heats up.  When the grill is ready, press your fingers into the dough to dimple it and drizzle the top with a bit more olive oil.

Place the pan on the grill and bake the bread for 15-20 minutes.  You may need to rotate the pan occasionally to avoid hot spots.  When the bread is almost cooked through (with about two minutes left or so), use tongs to flip it over in the pan.  This will help the top brown and char the tomatoes nicely.  Remove from the grill and let it cool slightly before cutting the bread into wedges.  Serve warm.

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