This past week, we had the first day of what actually felt like fall in DC. Went for a run through Rock Creek Park with a friend, and barely broke a sweat, the air was so crisp. Walked out of the house in a sweater, and boots, and a scarf. All three! At once! We'll pretend this week wasn't 80 degrees and humid: Fall has fallen.
Apples have exploded at the farmers' markets, and everyone's talking about pie. But I still haven't finished the last of my peach and nectarine store, and admittedly, I'm savoring them. I'm not quite ready to say goodbye. But I'll split the difference: I'm ready, very very ready, for concord grapes.
In years past, puzzlingly enough, I've watched the two fleeting weeks of grape season pass me by. The fruit seemed prohibitively expensive, and I've worried that if I forked over the cash and bought them, I wouldn't be able to figure out a way to use them that'd rationalize the expense in my mind. It's all very psychological (and kind of ridiculous), but this year, I've come to my senses. Grapes were $5/quart at my local market, so I bought them, ate a bunch on the way home from the market, and baked the rest into this fantastic focaccia.
Before you roll your eyes and tell me there's no way you're making this, I'll tell you that I got home from work at 4pm, had a game night at 7:45, and managed to make this in between - with enough time to watch a full episode of Project Runway (which, to my dismay, now clocks in at 1 hour and 34 minutes. Seriously?) The point is, this is a 3 hour recipe with about 30 minutes of active time, max. The results would have you believe I spent much longer making it, which, of course, is the idea.
Unlike some other doughs, this one is soft and supple, and entirely unfussy. Layered with flavors of red wine and olive oil, it's a dough that keeps on giving, and a perfect bed for sweet grapes, earthy rosemary, and crunch of sugar. But that's not all: awesomely, this recipe has you layer dough with grapes, so that the delightful product of your (minimal) labor is a readymade focaccia sandwich. The grapes in between the layers of dough are soft and juicy, oozing out of the focaccia. The grapes on top are slightly charred and very concentrated - and that crunchy rosemary, it's divine.
If you've ever passed on concord grapes, or rolled your eyes at the prospect of making focaccia, I'm here to tell you all too enthusiastically that you can do both (at once!) right now. I guess that's why they pay me the big bucks I keep blogging, just for fun.
News: Work is nutso this time every year, so I inevitably fail to do anything special to mark a certain occasion: NDP's birthday! We're four years old now, not a toddler anymore, and boy does it feel good. Thanks to all you kind folks for sticking around, reading, and sharing your thoughts. It's been loads of fun.
Grape Rosemary Focacciaadapted from an old Gourmet recipe (sigh)
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons) 3 tablespoons dry red wine 1 tablespoon honey 3/4 cup warm water (110–115°F) 2 1/2 to 3 cups Italian "00" flour or half all-purpose flour and half cake flour (not self-rising) 1/4 cup fine-quality extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Tuscan) 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 3 1/2 cups Concord or wine grapes (1 1/2 pounds) 1/2 cup sugar 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed from stems
Make dough: Stir together yeast, wine, honey, and warm water in a large bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add oil, flour, and sea salt and stir until a sticky dough forms. Knead dough on a floured work surface, gradually adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if necessary to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic but still soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour. After 1 hour, deflate the dough (gently; I don't believe in punching the stuff down) and return to its warm place, under the towel, for another hour, until doubled in size.
Prepare focaccia: Turn out dough onto work surface and knead several times to release air. Cut dough in half. Keeping one piece covered, roll out the other piece with a lightly floured rolling pin into a rough 12- by 10-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 15- by 10-inch baking pan and gently stretch to cover as much of the pan as possible. It won't be perfect, and that's perfectly fine.
Scatter half of grapes over dough, then sprinkle grapes with 1/4 cup sugar. Roll out remaining piece of dough in same manner and put on top of grapes, gently stretching dough to cover grapes. Scatter remaining grapes, rosemary leaves, and 1/4 cup sugar on top and gently press into dough. Cover pan with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Bake focaccia:Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake focaccia in middle of oven until well browned and firm in middle, 35 to 45 minutes, until golden on top. Start checking early, as it will brown quickly. When done, Loosen sides and bottom of focaccia with a spatula and slide onto a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.