Quick Focaccia

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There is something about making breads that just feels like a win.  Focaccia always does that!  The very best focaccia recipes allow for the dough to rest anywhere from hours to days.  If you are like me, some days you are driving home from work thinking focaccia would really boost dinner TODAY.  Not 3 days from now.  This recipe is for those days.   If you’ve got a little over an hour, you’ve got enough time to pull this off – and trust me, it’s easy.  No intensive kneading or stand mixer necessary!

  • 2 Tbso olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh herbs – I used basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano and thyme. minced

Mix well and if it looks a little herb heavy, add a bit more olive oil. Set aside.

  • 3/4 cup warm water (the perfect temperature for blooming yeast is between 105-115)
  • 2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (1 pack)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Top with flaky sea salt and more fresh rosemary.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Proof yeast and sugar in 3/4 cup warm water – 105-115 degrees F until foamy and active.
  • In a bowl, combine flour, salt.
  • Add in yeast mixture & olive oil, and mix to get it all together.  You may need to add a couple tablespoons more warm water.  You want this to be slightly sticky.
  • Cover and allow dough to rise for around 30 minutes.  The time isn’t as important as that you need to let the dough to pretty much double in size.
  • Add 1 -2 tbsp  olive oil into small baking vessel – either  9 x 7 inch sheet pan, or this also works well in an 8 x 8 square baking pan. You want a fair bit of oil here, rub it all around the sides of the pan as well.
  • Add dough and stretch to fit pan, if dough springs back, let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes and try again.  The rest helps the gluten to relax.
  • Once dough has been stretched enough to fit the baking sheet, allow to rest (covered) for 30 minutes.  Honestly, do whatever time you have – I find this to be fairly forgiving.
  • Dampen your fingers and dimple the dough like you are playing a piano.
  • Drizzle herbed olive oil over dimpled dough and allow it to fill in the dimples, I like to be generous with the herb oil mixture.
  • Sprinkle on some flaky sea salt and more fresh rosemary that isn’t all minced up.
  • Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Once out of the oven, allow to rest on a cooling rack to keep the bottom crusty as well.

So many ways you can serve this;

  • Use it as an appetizer with a charcuterie board
  • Fresh out of the oven with simple oil and vinegar
  • Try it with your best olive oil and my dukka recipe, (If you’ve never tried dukka you are in for a treat!)
  • Completes a soup or salad meal
It’s October and this is what my herb garden still looks like!
Ready to go, and this herby oil smells so fresh – today I added in some roasted garlic.
Ready for the oven – love the way those little dimples fill up, I think those pockets of oil help crisp up the top.
You just know how good your house smells – it’s ready to dunk in your soup.

Creamy Tahini Soy vinaigrette

DINNER IN A BOWL 

There are plenty of one bowl dishes to be found – but we think this one is simply the best!  The dressing makes more than you will need but it is amazing in so many ways – I also love to toss vegetables in it before grilling them 

DRESSING

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2 generous tbsp tahini paste

2 cloves garlic, crushed

red chili flakes (optional)

1 1/4 – 1/2 cups vegetable oil

  • Your favorite hearty rice – we like red rice but brown would work well too.
  • lots of toasted almonds
  • spring pea shoots
  • cooked protein of your choice, really anything works (or leave it out for vegetarian)

Put the first 6 ingredients in a blender and give a good whiz until blended well – add oil in a slow but steady stream.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.  On those days when I feel the need for a little extra winter warmth I add 1/2 – 1 tsp chili flakes.

SALAD

Spinach, grated carrot, grated beet, and honestly – whatever items in your fridge look appealing to you!  Spinach is a great green to use in this dish because it holds up so well with the hearty ingredients.

To make this a whole party on a plate, I also serve it with cooked chicken, sauted tofu or prawns.

Stir all the ingredients together: rice, vegetables and whatever protein you have decided on (if you want one!) and garnish with plenty of toasted almonds and spring pea shoots.

Chipotle Vinaigrette

Is there anything better than a vinaigrette that you want to use on everything? I doubt it. We’ve used it to dress up grilled vegetables, served it drizzled over a Mexican steak bowl, and of course just as dressing for a simple salad. The added bonus is that this is the easiest dressing to make.

Use it in a variety of ways – today it was drizzled over a Mexican Steak Bowl, and it was perfect with the combination of sweet, smoky and spicy.
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

The directions are embarrassingly easy ….. simply toss it all in a blender and let it whizz until everything is creamy and smooth. The combination of chipotle, honey and lime is brilliant.

Grilled steak and vegetables, served over a bed of Mexi style rice and garnished with a juicy fresh tomato and cilantro salad. This dressing is amazing.

This recipe came from the the Love and Lemons website, and you can be sure anything from Jeanine Donofrio is going to be delicious.

Thai Inspired Steak Salad

It’s hard to spot the salad underneath, but it’s there! A tangle of wheat noodles and crunchy salad greens is the base of this – go ahead and use rice noodles or just omit the noodles entirely.

I love a full meal deal salad! This tangle of vegetables, both fresh and grilled, served mixed with noodles and garnished with steak and nuts is just the best. It’s on repeat around here. Go ahead and splurge for the best steak – you don’t need much to make it a complete meal.

This dressing is the star of the show – it is light and bright with just the perfect amount of zing.

  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2-3 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp raw sugar (or honey)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thai basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds **
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil
  • kosher salt to taste

** I’m a big fan of toasting nuts or seeds as it adds so much flavour. Watch closely because they go from deeply toasted (my personal favourite) to black …. beware. (yes, I speak from experience)

Whisk all the ingredients, except the oils, together in a bowl. Once combined, slowly drizzle in the oils and continue to whisk until well blended. This is the part where you taste, and adjust if needed – sometimes you need a bit more lime juice, salt or sweetener. If you prefer your dressing on the spicy side, add in a bit of Thai chili or chili flakes.

This recipe is just as versatile as whatever you have on hand. Tonight this dish included:

  • Chinese wheat noodles (cooked)
  • salad greens
  • mint leaves
  • basil leaves
  • cilantro leaves
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • bean sprouts
  • grilled red pepper
  • grilled zucchini
  • steamed baby bok choy
  • grilled beef tenderloin
  • toasted cashews
  • toasted sesame seeds

I like to make a salad out of the cold cooked noodles and fresh vegetables, and pile that in the bottom of my bowl. Arrange the cooked vegetables around the sides along with the grilled steak. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle the cashews and sesame seeds over.

If you have time, and have a steak that needs marinating, just use a bit of the dressing. This works equally well with chicken, pork or tofu. If you want to use shrimp make sure to only give it a quick marinade.

When grilling the vegetables, drizzle with a little of the dressing before and after grilling.

When you start with a fresh salad as the base, everything is tastier!!

Alex’s smash hit dressing!

Longer brighter days are coming and I can’t wait. We have a salad almost every night, and with the warmer weather approaching they often take the form of a “meal in a salad”. This dressing hits it out of the park for a delicious flavour bomb to dress pretty much anything with. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Salad tonight, but it could easily dress a rice bowl or serve over salmon.
  • 1/4 cup tamari (can sub soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • dash of fish sauce (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (unless they are home grown, then maybe 1/4-1/2 a clove) :o)
  • 1″ ginger, grated
  • thinly sliced scallions

Put everything in a jar and shake vigorously – really vigorously. If you use warm water it will help loosen up the miso if it’s straight out of the fridge.

Drizzle lightly and grill – another sure fire winner.

This recipe came from our friend Alex – she is an amazing cook, and agreed to let me post it! #abcooks

Hot Tomato Feta Salad & Crispy Flatbread

Tomato Feta Salad 2
This could just as easily be an appetizer as a side dish ….tonight it was a side dish for our roasted chicken and it was delicious!  Super quick and easy, along with ingredients I love and that made it a total win.

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped, pitted Kalmata olives
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 8- to 10-ounce block feta
Crackers, flatbread*, pita chips, or crostini, for dipping

In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, oregano, olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.

Feel free to substitute the feta with haloumi, or goat cheese, either would be great.

On a grill: Heat your grill to medium-high. Set the feta block in the middle of a piece of foil. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Fold up the edges of the foil so that it will hold in any liquid as it cooks. Place the packet straight on a grill for 15 minutes to warm it through. Remove from grill and transfer to plate or serving dish.

In the oven: Heat oven to 400°F. Check to see that your dish is oven-proof. Place the block of feta in the middle of your dish. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Bake for 15 minutes.

Both methods: The feta will not melt, just warm and soften. Garnish with parsley and serve with crackers; eat immediately. As it cools, the feta will firm up again.

Flatbread 1

I’m guilty of poaching this recipe right off the Smitten Kitchen website, and if you haven’t visited that site, hop on over.  Deb Perelman has fantastic recipes, but even just her writing style is worth a read.

Flatbread 4

Can’t believe how good these are!  I had to use the herb I had on hand, so these are made with thyme, not rosemary.  Can’t wait to try with fresh rosemary out of my garden.

*Flatbread.  also from http://www.smittenkitchen.com

  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil plus more for brushing
  • Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Heat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a large, wide bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Use your hands to gently knead dough inside the bowl 4 or 5 times, until it comes together in a semi-smooth ball.

Divide dough into 3 large or 6 smaller pieces and roll out one piece at a time on an unfloured counter, to about 10-inch (for larger pieces of dough) or 7-inch rounds (smaller pieces) — shape can be rustic; dough should be thin. Lift flatbread onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. I can sometimes squeeze 6 small flatbreads on a half-sheet pan; sometimes I need to bake 1 to 2 in a second batch.

Lightly brush tops with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top (if using), pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating flatbreads if needed on the pan for even color. Let cool then break into pieces.

I cut mine into triangles before baking, and they came out perfectly.  Read the full Smitten Kitchen recipe for more ideas, you will be happy you did.

Buttermilk Ranch Dip or Dressing

Veg

Vegetables first!  The kids absolutely love a big platter of fresh vegetables, but this ranch dressing really makes it a favourite.  Ready for them to arrive from the ski hill today and this platter will disappear in minutes.

This is the best creamy dressing to have on hand for those hungry moments. .. … or when the kids are arriving home from school or the ski hill.  In general, we prefer vinaigrette’s for salad dressing, but this is so comforting and delicious we love it too.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (you could use regular milk but I like the tang from buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp each dried basil, oregano & parsley (in the summer of course fresh is best)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice (according to your own taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Give the whole thing a good mix and allow to sit long enough for all the seasonings to fully wake up and join the party.  This is perfect as a dip, for a salad dressing I would thin it out a bit with either a bit more buttermilk or even a touch of water.

 

Creamy Cucumber Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Cucumber dressing 2

We used to love going to a small restaurant in Mexico City, no name on the building and just a few wooden chairs and tables on the sidewalk … but oh … the food!  For 99 pesos we received an amazing set menu with four courses and it was always fantastic.  The chef moved on … (we spotted him at another place finally).  If I could remember the name of his new spot I’d definitely give you a recommendation to try it!  Anyhow … what was I saying … oh of course … this is a salad dressing recipe.  He made this incredible creamy cucumber salad dressing that was divine.  I asked him the recipe and he gave me the basic idea but claimed the key was the sea salt he used.  We walked miles looking for the store he told us to go to, without success.  Eventually, on another trip we found the salt  (from Cuyutlan), and have continued to pick it up every time we go to Mexico City!  I’ve finally hit the right ingredients here and this is delicious.

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Roughly chop the herbs and cucumber and place in blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a really good whiz until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how juicy your cucumber is, you can thin it out a bit with milk or buttermilk if needed.

Tossed Salad

This is delicious tossed with your favourite salad, roasted and room temperature vegetables or as a dipping sauce.

Creamy Cucumber Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Cucumber dressing 2

Smooth, creamy and absolutely delicious – this will make you crave a salad.

We used to love going to a small restaurant in Mexico City, no name on the building and just a few wooden chairs and tables on the sidewalk … but oh … the food!  For 99 pesos we received an amazing set menu with four courses and it was always fantastic.  The chef moved on … (we spotted him at another place finally).  If I could remember the name of his new spot I’d definitely give you a recommendation to try it!  Anyhow … what was I saying … oh of course … this is a salad dressing recipe.  He made this incredible creamy cucumber salad dressing that was divine.  I asked him the recipe and he gave me the basic idea but claimed the key was the sea salt he used.  We walked miles looking for the store he told us to go to, without success.  Eventually, on another trip we found the salt  (from Cuyutlan), and have continued to pick it up every time we go to Mexico City!  I’ve finally hit the right ingredients here and this is delicious.

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Roughly chop the herbs and cucumber and place in blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a really good whiz until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how juicy your cucumber is, if needed you can thin it out a bit with milk or buttermilk.

Creamy Cucumber dressing 3

My trusty little bullet whipped this up in no time.

Creamy cucumber dressing 4

My herbs are so happy this year!

Creamy cucumber dressing 5

Here it is, the infamous salt I had Grant, Wilson and Vivian trekking all over                              Mexico City looking for.  Was it worth the effort?  You bet.

 

 

 

 

 

Bright Crunchy Thai salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

Brighter skies, longer days, and warm temperatures mean I’m looking for meals that are lighter and feel so good to eat!  The flavours of this dressing are so good you are going to want a big batch to keep in the fridge – use it to dip any fresh vegetables in.

Sesame chli lime cashews 3

Served tonight with some lightly garlic buttered prawns …. a perfect meal.

Dressing

  • juice of 2 limes
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp Ponzu sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 – 2 tsp grated or minced garlic (to your taste)
  •  1 tbsp grated or minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (the stems are perfect for this, they pack so much flavour – just mince a bit before putting in the blender
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts

Combine all ingredients in blender and whiz up until smooth and creamy.

Gather up all the vegetables that scream fresh to you and make an awesome crunchy salad.

Lightly seasoned cashews make a fantastic crunchy topping!

In a frypan combine:

  • 1 1/3 cups cashews
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

Sesame Chili Lime cashews

Toss and heat until cashews are lightly browned and then cook for a further minute with:

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Sesame chli lime cashews 2

This dressing makes more than you will need.  If you want to make a complete meal out of this, then scoop out about 1/2 cup and marinate a protein for grilling.  It works equally well with flank steak or chicken.  I haven’t tried it with tofu, but I’m sure it would be great.  Grill steak or chicken and allow to rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.  Cool before serving with the salad.