Hi friends! How was your weekend? We spent a fun one down in North Carolina at the wedding of one of Bowl #2’s college friends. This might just be me and the fact that I haven’t gone to that many yet, but I feel like I love weddings more and more with every one I go to, even when I’m a plus-one and I’ve never met the bride and groom. (But also there’s a 20% chance you’ll find me crying in my office to YouTube highlight reels of strangers’ weddings on any given afternoon. Just so you know what kind of constitution you’re dealing with.)
This one was beautiful — there was an abundance of brilliant sunshine, B2 got to see all his closest friends from undergrad, I got really weepy during the exchange of vows despite having met the groom for the very first time about 12 minutes before the ceremony. I learned what a New Orleans second line is (and that it is more challenging than I would have thought to wave a cloth napkin to a beat?!) Also, there were these really excellent mini chicken quesadilla cone-things at the cocktail hour, half of which were consumed by me, and the most delicious vanilla cake with raspberry frosting. Do not invite me to your wedding, I will eat all your food.
So that was our weekend! We spent the flight back talking about all the things we wanted at our own wedding, and we got back on Sunday with enough time to bake a batch of cookies and enjoy a little bit of gorgeous New York spring, not quite as warm as sunny Carolina but still amazing. My only regret: that we didn’t make it to a Cookout or Waffle House before we left. Next time.
With the exception of this weekend and a few days here and there, spring has been coy in New York. The finicky weather has me waffling between staying close to comforting things that bake in a toasty oven and moving on to crisp, fresh spring greens. This pillowy focaccia, warm from the oven but studded with spring herbs, was my way of compromising. A good focaccia has been on my to-do list for awhile now. I think there’s something irresistible about a salty, flavorful, crackly-topped focaccia with pockets of grassy olive oil and generous flecks of rosemary, dipped in a good sauce or all on its own. Of the recipes I tried, this one by Sam at Love Comma Cake was my favorite, scaled it down just slightly for a 9×13 pan and with an overnight rise thrown in. It was everything I wanted from focaccia — crisp and golden on top, light and soft inside but still satisfyingly chewy, with plenty of little divots for olive oil and herby goodness.
The focaccia was more than good enough to devour plain, but I paired it with what might be my new favorite sauce: Molly’s romesco! I’d never had romesco before this but oh my gosh, I’m in love. Tart from a splash of vinegar, subtly sweet and smoky from roasted peppers, and hearty from toasted nuts, it has all the piquancy and depth of flavor I didn’t know I was missing in a tomato-based sauce. I want it on everything. Served with jammy caramelized onions on top, this made for the perfect lunch for us to bridge the gap between a blustery late winter and a gentle early spring. Happy Wednesday!
The focaccia is a slightly scaled-down version of this recipe by Love Comma Cake; the romesco is barely adapted from My Name is Yeh. I added roasted pimentos as a nod to my beloved Southern staple and used almonds, just because I like them, but Molly's walnut and roasted bell pepper version sounds fantastic as is.
- for the focaccia:
- 3 cups (375 g) flour
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped herbs, divided (I used rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/3 cups warm water (105° to 110°, or warm to the touch but not hot)
- 2 tbsp good olive oil, like Lucini (plus 2-3 tbsp more for greasing and drizzling)
- coarse sea salt for topping
- for the romesco sauce:
- 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 12-oz jar roasted pimentos (I used Goya brand)
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
- salt & pepper, to taste
- to serve:
- caramelized onions (instructions here or in this article by The Kitchn)
- One day ahead: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, 2 tablespoons chopped herbs, and yeast. In a small bowl, whisk together warm water and oil. Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula (these are my favorite) until all the flour is moistened -- the dough should be quite wet and tacky, something like the dough here but should not be soupy.
- Next, knead or work with the dough for about 8-10 minutes, or until the dough becomes elastic and begins to hold its shape. You can either knead it by turning it out onto a work surface and scraping it up with a bench scraper and folding it over repeatedly, like Sam does, or use a stand mixer with a dough hook if you have one -- or, if you’d like to go rogue like me, just use a spatula and “knead” the dough right in the bowl by just stirring and pressing and generally messing around with it until it comes together. It’s all very elegant. (But really, don’t worry too much about this -- if you do an overnight rise, the long rise time will aid in any gluten development that doesn’t happen with kneading.)
- Lightly oil a large bowl or 4-quart container with olive oil. Scrape the focaccia dough into the bowl and gently turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight, 8-12 hours.
- For the romesco: At this point, you can also make your romesco (and your caramelized onions, instructions here and here). For the romesco sauce, simply combine all the romesco ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste, and that's it! Romesco will keep up to 3 days.
- Day of: When you're ready to bake, oil a 9x13-inch rimmed baking sheet or baking dish. Transfer the dough from the bowl to the baking sheet. Using your hands, flatten the dough and fold it in on itself once or twice, then gently press and stretch it into a large rectangle. Don’t worry too much about getting it to cover the pan initially. Place the dough in a warm place and let it rise for 10-20 minutes, or until it begins to feel soft again. At this point, you can gently stretch it to cover the entire dish.
- Preheat the oven to 450° F. While it’s preheating, let the dough rise for another 20-30 minutes, or until it comes to room temperature.
- Using the pads of your fingers, press on the dough all across its surface, patting it down to about 1/2 or 3/4-inch thickness and creating dimples evenly across the entire surface. Marian compares it to “playing chords on a piano.” Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons herbs and 2 tablespoons olive oil, then drizzle evenly across the dough.
- Bake until golden brown, puffed, and set, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then remove from the pan, slice, and serve. Enjoy warm, with romesco sauce for dipping and caramelized onions to top.