My husband and I met back in the glory days of the “dotcom boom”. San Francisco was abuzz with endless possibilities, a flurry of innovative start-ups, and more money than any recent college graduate should ever be able to get his or her hands on.
It was utopia.
Still, during all this abundance, our favorite afternoon date spot was a quaint, non-descript Italian deli that made the city’s best sandwiches on freshly-baked rosemary focaccia. To this day, I have a special “thing” for the olive oil and sea salt-laden bread.
Focaccia is one of those staples that make an excellent cocktail party nibble. The typical recipe yields enough to feed a crowd and it can be topped with any ingredients you like. My version was inspired by this recipe and is loaded with rosemary, red grapes, pine nuts and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
It’s savory with just a hint of sweet and hits all the right notes, just like falling in love.
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 3 tablespoons cane sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 2 ¼ cups seedless red grapes, quartered lengthwise
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (Fleur de Sel or Maldon are excellent choices)
- Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish
In a large glass bowl, place ¾ cup lukewarm water (about 105-115° F) and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let it stand until it begins to foam and dissolve, about 5-8 minutes.
With a wooden spoon, stir in 6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 1/3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, sugar and sea salt to the yeast mixture. Stir until a loose dough begins to form and turn out onto a floured surface.
Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add more flour as needed if the dough is very sticky. It should be a little damp, but not unworkable. You may also use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, for about 5 minutes. Finish the dough by kneading by hand on a floured surface for about 1 minute.
Oil a large glass bowl and place the dough inside, turning to lightly coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and let rise until doubled again, about 45 minutes.
Oil a large baking sheet (about 11 x 17 inch) with additional olive oil. Punch down the dough again and place it into the pan, gently stretching until you have an oval shape (about ½ inch thick). Dimple the dough with your fingertips.
Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Scatter the grapes, pine nuts, cheese, additional 1 tablespoon dried rosemary and flaky sea salt over the dough, pressing everything in gently. Let rise (uncovered) until puffy, about 20-25 minutes.
Bake in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature and enjoy!