I have mentioned before that I like to garden. I grow my own herbs and often head out to the garden with scissors in hand when I am working on a recipe. I cannot encourage you enough to grow herbs! You don’t have to have a lot of space, in fact, you can grow delicious herbs in a pot on your patio or even your balcony or front porch. They look lovely, and grow beautifully because you are always trimming them to cook which encourages them to grow thicker and bushier! It’s a win-win! This weeks recipe: Italian Chicken Focaccia came from that herb inspiration.
One of my favorite herbs is rosemary. It grows in stalk like branches, with slender leaves that almost resemble pine needles. Cutting off a branch of these, and sliding your hand from tip to base pops all of those flavorful leaves into your palm. The smell of fresh rosemary is amazing, and the taste is even better! On a recent trip to San Francisco with my daughter, we saw an entire border bed filled with rosemary bushes! Not only was it beautiful, it smelled amazing as we walked by. I have wondered since if the owners had any idea what it was, and if they used it in their kitchen.
California Girl comments: I love the way rosemary smells and grow it in my garden, but I only enjoy it as a bare whisper in my food. It is a flavor I find can be overpowering. When recipes call for rosemary in the dish, I may substitue it for something like chives and use just a tiny amount of the rosemary or even rosemary olive oil to give that herb dimension to the recipe, but still find it pleasing to my own palate.
While at work today, I got to thinking about rosemary, and decided to make a simple meal with it tonight. This Italian chicken focaccia takes a little over 2 hours to make, but it’s worth the time and energy! One hour of the two hours is simply waiting for the dough to rise, so you almost can’t count that hour! With a side of salad, this is a light dinner that is sure to be requested again and again.
California Girl comments: Doesn’t that look amazing? I wonder if I kidnapped Ms. April and held her captive to cook for me all of the time if her husband and family would notice? Yeh, they would probably wonder where all of the good food went. Drats! Foiled again.
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To make this focaccia you are going to need:
3 garlic cloves
1 TBSP fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp honey
3 TBSP active dry yeast
1 cup very warm water
1/4 Tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups white flour, plus 1/2 cup for kneading
1/2 cup olive oil, plain or garlic infused
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP minced sun dried tomatoes
1 small, boneless, skinless chicken breast
heirloom tomatoes, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green or purple
Coarse sea salt (Seriously, a container of this should always be in your kitchen)
Before we get started, I want to tell you about a little gadget in my kitchen that I use all the time. It’s a garlic grater. It’s a ceramic dish with little “teeth” in the center of it, where you rub the garlic clove. The garlic clove is grated into small pieces, and you simply use a little stiff brush to wipe the garlic off the plate and into your dish. I am sure you can find one online, and I have included a picture of it so you can see how it works. It’s one of those things I would grab from the kitchen if my house caught on fire. I love it. Find one. You can thank me later.
1. Use a small saucepan and combine the 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 cloves grated garlic, pepper and rosemary leaves. Cook on medium heat until the leaves are crunchy and the garlic is light brown and toasty. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, or use your Kitchen Aide mixer, put the one cup of very warm water, the honey and the yeast. Stir until the yeast is dissolved, and move on to the next part of the recipe while the yeast proofs. You will know your yeast is good if when you come back to it in 10 minutes, it is foamy. This shows that your yeast is feeding on the honey and growing, which is exactly what you want it to do! If your water is too hot, or too cold, the yeast won’t grow and you will have to start it over. I don’t use a thermometer. I use my finger. If it feels hot, but not too hot to leave my finger in it, it’s perfect. I like things easy.
3. While the yeast is proofing, chop the sun dried tomatoes and set aside. Slice the tomatoes into thin slices 1/8 -1/4 inch thick, and set aside. Slice the chicken breast into 1/4 inch slices, and then take each of those slices and lay on its side and slice in half. You will end up with a pile of chicken meat “ribbons.” (Don’t forget to use bleach on your cutting board after you cut the chicken.)
4. Now go check your yeast. If it is nice and foamy, add one cup of the flour, the salt and a 1/4 cup of your olive oil mixture. Mix until combined, and then let it rest for 10 minutes. Add the remaining flour and the chopped sun dried tomatoes, and mix until combined. Knead until smooth, adding a little more flour as needed to make it no longer sticky. Your dough will be smooth and elastic. You can do this by hand, or use your kneading attachment on your mixer. You will still need to add flour a little at a time as you knead in the mixer until it forms a ball in the bowl. I used my Kitchen Aid, and kneaded on low power for 15 minutes.
When it is done, put 2 TBSP olive oil in a bowl, place your dough ball in the bottom, and then turn it over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp dish cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour.
5. Pour the oil mixture into another dish for later, and use the pan you prepared it in to lightly cook the chicken ribbons. You don’t need to cook them all the way through, but just until the outer surface is white. No additional seasoning is needed, because you get the seasoning from the prepared oil mixture that is left in the pan. Set aside.
6. (at this point, preheat the oven to 450 degrees) Once your dough has doubled in size, dump it out onto a olive oil greased cookie sheet and press it into a semi-rectangular shape with your fingers. It should be about 10 x 13ish inches. Now, press your fingers tips in to the dough, to make deep divots all over the surface.
7. Pour your reserved oil mixture over the dough and gently spread all over the entire surface, so all those little divots get filled with that wonderful flavor! Arrange the assorted tomato slices over the top to cover, and then evenly distribute the chicken pieces. Sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt.
Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Slightly cool and slice with a pizza cutter into squares/rectangles.
California Girl comments: This week’s wine pairing Casone is a wine that hails from Tuscany, Italy. I bought it from Trader Joes for $9.99. It is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Syrah. This medium/bold wine will pair beautifully with the earthy flavored herbs and the acid of the tomatoes without overwhelming the chicken. The fruity notes in the wine will help to accentuate the Italian soul of this dish.
We had this flavorful focaccia with pasta and a salad for dinner. It’s great with just a salad, which makes it a perfect summer meal! I hope you enjoy! Have a wonderful week~Ms. April