Tag Archives: olive oil

Provolone & Sundried Tomato “Piadine”

I am taking liberties here by naming these crispy, flaky flatbreads piadine. Piadine are from Emilia-Romagna, thin breads flavored with lard and raised by baking soda, griddled to a golden color and folded around Prosciutto, salty cheeses, or greens, depending on the occasion and the appetite. The recipe below tastes like a hybrid between a piadina and a thin focaccia; to make it, you need a good quality flour tortilla (homemade or store-bought).

At my cooking school in New York City, I stuff flour tortillas with cheese and roasted chicken, or cheese and arugula, or cheese and sundried tomatoes, or cheese and… you name it! We serve these addictive “piadine” as finger foods, and no one can ever get enough of them. Everyone wants the recipe. So, finally, here it is: nothing could be easier.

You can freeze the piadine after stuffing and before baking, wrapped in parchment and enclosed in freezer-safe plastic bags; just defrost a few hours before you are ready to serve. They make a great meal with a green salad alongside, or impressive (and easy) finger foods when cut into triangles after baking, as in the photo here.

Makes 2 piadine (serves 1 as a main course, 6 as finger food)

  • 4 flour tortilla shells
  • 3 thin slices mild Provolone or fresh Mozzarella (3 ounces total)
  • 4 sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained and minced
  • 2 pitted green or black olives, minced
  • 12 basil leaves, thinly sliced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees(preferably set on convection bake). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place 2 flour tortilla shells on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Top each with half of the Provolone, sundried tomatoes, olives, and basil. Top each with a second tortilla shell.

Brush with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden and crisp. Serve hot, cutting each into quarters as a main course or into 12 triangles as finger food.


Focaccia di Recco (Cheese-Filled Flat Focaccia)

This is quintessential street food in Liguria: thin, flaky dough encasing runny cheese, the whole thing flavored with fragrant olive oil and coarse sea salt. A specialty of Recco, a small seaside town, focaccia di Recco is unlike any focaccia you may have encountered. There is no yeast in the dough, and no salt in the dough either (salt toughens the dough, so it is used only on the top crust, sprinkled on just before baking). The focaccia is baked in huge pans in a blazing hot oven, the top crust emerging burnished and brown, the bottom crust soft and almost lasagna-like thanks to the weight of the cheese.

And the cheese: Stracchino or Crescenza are the only cheeses used, runny, tangy cousins of Gorgonzola, but with no hint of blue and no aging. Almost impossible to find in most American cheese shops, Stracchino and Crescenza can be substituted by Taleggio or even a buffalo milk Mozzarella, and the resulting focaccia will be delicious… but not quite the same as the original. You can mail-order Stracchino from igourmetcom . We met Luigi Guffanti in Piedmont, when we visited with my parents on the Lago Maggiore, and his cheeses are delicious!!

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as an appetizer

For the dough:

  • 1 and ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and the pan
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature water, plus extra as needed

For the filling:

  • 6 ounces Stracchino or Crescenza, diced

To bake:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt




Make the dough: Place the flour the olive oil in a bowl. Add ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of room-temperature water and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Turn out onto the counter and knead for 5 minutes, adding water if the dough is dry or flour if the dough is sticky.

The dough should be soft and supple, or you will not be able to roll it out until it is nearly transparent later; resist the temptation to add too much flour or it may be tough later. Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl, shape into a ball, and wrap. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature (or refrigerate up to 2 days; return to room temperature before rolling out).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°.



Cut the dough in 2 pieces and shape each into a ball. Cover and set aside 20 minutes to relax.


Roll out both pieces on a lightly floured counter until quite thin and allow to rest on a floured counter for 5 minutes to relax and make stretching easier. Make sure there is some flour under the dough or the dough will stick to the counter.

Roll out each piece until nearly transparent (or drape the dough over the backs of your hands and stretch by pulling your hands apart); if the dough tears, patch with your fingers. (This is a very easy dough to work with, and is very versatile.)

Generously oil a round 14-inch pizza pan (use about 1 tablespoon: don’t be skimpy with the oil or the texture of the focaccia won’t be right) and line it with 1 piece of dough, allowing excess dough to hang over the sides (there should be at least 1 inch of excess dough on all sides).




Scatter the Stracchino over the dough, then cover with the other piece of dough. Press the edges to seal and run the rolling pin over the edge of the pan to cut off excess dough, then seal again. (Excess dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, covered, and used to make other focaccias; you can also freeze it for up to 1 month and defrost as needed).

To bake: Brush the top of the focaccia with the olive oil and sprinkle it with the salt. Make a few small tears in the top of the dough (this allows air to escape, preventing the dough from doming as a result of accumulated steam as the focaccia bakes) and bake on the baking stone in the preheated 550° oven for 7 minutes, or until the dough is lightly golden and puffed with a few brown spots. You do not want the dough to take on a cracker-like texture. Serve piping hot.



Cornmeal-Crusted Focaccia with Spiced Broccoli Raab & Pecorino

Polenta, seldom eaten in southern Italy, is a staple in Calabria. It is cooked soft and topped with chickpeas, broccoli raab, or sausages and beans, as well as baked into savory pies and breads. Here I adapted a classic Calabrese recipe for a spiced cornmeal focaccia known as pitta di granturco and topped it with boiled broccoli raab, garlic, chilies and Pecorino to make a very tasty focaccia. I love it in generous wedges with a simple green salad for lunch, or served with grilled Italian sausage and sweet peppers for a hearty dinner.

You have to like the slightly bitter flavor of broccoli raab, and the rustic charm and crunch of a cornmeal dough, to enjoy this unusual focaccia; I love both, so it is one of my favorite ways to enjoy greens and homemade bread.

I find the best thing about cornmeal doughs is their pleasantly gritty texture and the way the grains sort of pop in your mouth, so I always buy stoneground cornmeal for best flavor and texture. Coarse Italian polenta works well too, as long as it is not an instant variety.

Because cornmeal has no gluten at all, there is a proportion of all-purpose flour in the dough; this ensures the focaccia won’t emerge as dense as a brick. The dough will feel a bit cakey when kneaded, and won’t rise dramatically in the oven, so don’t be alarmed. And remember to allow time for overnight rising of the dough in the refrigerator.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer

For the dough:

  • ¾ cup stone-ground coarse cornmeal
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm (100°F) water, plus extra as needed

For the topping:

  • 1 bunch broccoli raab, tough stems removed, washed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Make the dough: Place the cornmeal, flour, yeast, salt, fennel seeds, and cayenne in a food processor. Mix a few seconds to combine. With the motor running, add the olive oil, then pour in the water to make a soft dough that forms a ball around the blade. Add a little more water if the dough is dry or a touch of all-purpose flour if it is sticky. Process for 45 seconds. Lightly flour a bowl, and place the dough in it.

Shape into a rough ball, cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight so the dough develops a deep, sweet, complex flavor.

A few hours before you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator, place it on a very lightly floured counter, and knead it a few times. Alternately, knead it while it is still inside the bowl if that is easier for you. Reshape into a ball, return it to the bowl, and cover again.

One hour before baking, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 425°F (preferably set on convection bake).

Make the topping: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the raab and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Boil the raab 5 minutes, or until it is bright green and tender, and drain. Cool under running water, drain again, and squeeze almost (but not completely) dry. The raab has to retain some of its natural moisture or the topping will be unpleasantly dry, but it shouldn’t be too moist, or the crust will be soggy rather than crispy.

Chop the raab a few times and place it in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, the chili, garlic, and Pecorino, and mix well. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.


Generously oil a 12-inch pizza pan. Place the dough in the oiled pizza pan.


Using your hands, flatten the dough so it covers the bottom of the pan; it should be about 1/2-inch thick. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt.


Scatter the raab topping all over the dough and spread it out evenly. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for for 30 minutes (this allows the gluten to relax). Remove the plastic wrap.

Bake on the baking stone in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown all over and crispy around the edges, spraying the oven floor with ¼ cup of water 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking.


Brush with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and cut into wedges. Serve hot.


Agretti (aka Friar’s Beard) with Olive Oil

You may be lucky enough to run across this vegetable at a farmers’ market in late spring or early summer, and if you do, grab it! Agretti tastes a lot like spinach, but with a slight saline tang to it, and a more chewy, resilient, slippery texture. It is absolutely delicious. I always loved agretti on my trips to Italy, but never found it here until we went to the the Ramsey, NJ Farmers’ Market this week. To my surprise, Blooming Hill Farm had some (along with a huge array of other greens) so I snapped up a bunch and cooked it for lunch.

In Italy, agretti also go by the name barbe di frate (friar’s beard), and they grow abundantly in central Italy. They’re usually just boiled or steamed, and served with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, though some people also drizzle them with lemon juice. I find the lemon juice superfluous as it masks the natural brightness of agretti. When preparing agretti for cooking, take the thin, delicate leaves off the thicker central stems, then wash thoroughly in several changes of cool water.

On a historical note, agretti’s Latin name is Salsola soda, and in ancient times, the plant (which grows across the Mediterranean and can even be irrigated with saltwater) was an important source of soda ash. Soda ash is one of the alkali substances crucial to glassmaking and soapmaking, and apparently, it was the key ingredient that ensured the famous clarity of glass from Murano and Venice.

Serves 2

  • 1 bunch agretti (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Wash the agretti in several changes of cool water. Strip off the thin, delicate leaves from the thick central stems. Discard the thick stems and wash the tender leaves again in several changes of cool water until the water runs clear.

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Boil the agretti for 3 minutes, or until just crisp-tender. Drain and cool under running water. Squeeze dry gently with your hands (a little moisture is ok, but if the agretti is water-logged, the flavor will be diluted).

Place in a bowl and add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, the olive oil, and the pepper. Toss well, taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed. Serve at room temperature.


Grilled Flatbread with Olive Oil & Sea Salt

There is a recipe my husband refers to, simply, as “The Dough.” This is it. It is an all-purpose, delicious, versatile dough that you can use for any type of baked or grilled or even fried bread. You can stuff it, bake it flat as pizza or focaccia, shape it into ciabatta or baguette, or, as below, grill it.

The dough takes 2 minutes to make in the food processor (in fact, it takes longer to wash the food processor than to make the dough). You can definitely knead it by hand if you have 10 minutes to spare, and then all you need to wash is a bowl and a wooden spoon. But as quickly as the dough comes together, I strongly advise you to let it rise overnight in the refrigerator for best flavor, so plan ahead. The bread will taste amazingly wheaty and complex thanks to a long, slow, cool rise.

A word of caution: once you’ve tasted grilled bread, you’ll be addicted, and if you live in a climate where outdoor grilling is only an option a few months of the year, you’ll find yourself indulging almost daily just so you can get your fill (impossible) before cool weather returns! The dough is grilled directly on the grill grates, so you don’t need any special equipment other than a bit of aluminum foil to aid in shaping and flipping onto the grill.

Makes 2 large flatbreads (serves 8 people)

For the dough:

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups warm (110°F) water
  • extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the bowl

For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing when serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add enough warm (110°F) water (about 1 and 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough that rides the blade. Be careful not to use water that is too warm; anything above 120°F will kill the yeast, making the dough heavy rather than springy and light.

Process for 45 seconds. Add a little water if the dough is dry or a little flour if it is sticky. The dough should feel as soft as an earlobe when done; if it is dense or dry, add more water; you are better off with a slightly sticky dough than a dry one, as the bread will be much lighter and have beautiful air bubbles if your dough is a bit wet and sticky.

Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, roll to coat with the oil, shape into a ball, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Place in the refrigerator and allow to rise, undisturbed, for 24 hours; this will result in a deliciously wheaty tasting bread with a lighter texture. You can certainly let the dough rise at room temperature in just 2 hours or so, but the flavor will not be nearly as good.

Three to four hours before you are ready to grill the bread, take the dough out of the refrigerator and return it to room temperature before cutting it and shaping it.

Shape the dough: Cut two large pieces of sturdy aluminum foil (each piece should be about 12 inches long). Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each piece of foil and rub to coat the surface of the foil. Cut the dough in half and place one half on each piece of foil. Turn to coat both sides with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes.


Uncover and, using your hands, flatten each piece of dough into a rectangle roughly 1/2-inch thick. Do not worry if it is not a perfect rectangle. The even thickness matters far more than the shape. Even thickness insures that the bread will grill evenly, with no doughy, thick parts.


Flip the dough.


Season with the salt. Let rest 15 minutes.


Meanwhile, heat a grill to the highest setting for about 5 minutes. When the grill is really hot (about 500°F), place one bread on the grill, with the foil side facing up. Quickly peel off the foil. Repeat with the second bread. Close the grill and cook the breads about 3 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom; there should be deep grill marks on it. Cook longer if needed. Flip the breads, close the grill, and cook another 3 minutes, or until the second side is also browned; there will not be any grill lines on the second side, so what you are looking for is a golden color with a few deep brown spots.



Remove to a cutting board, brush with olive oil, cut into large pieces, and enjoy hot.

Farinata (Ligurian Chickpea Flour Pancake)

Farinata may be an acquired taste for some people, but to my husband and I, it was an immediate addiction. My family has a home in Rapallo, a bustling, colorful city on the Ligurian Sea, so every year we would spend a week there, enjoying the food and relaxing and visiting nearby towns. One of the foods we discovered in our early twenties was farinata, something my parents never seemed to buy at any of the local bakeries when I was little. This thin chickpea flour pancake has been baked since time immemorial on hot stones, a primitive sort of bread that is hearty, nutritious, and delicious; dock workers in Genova made a simple meal of farinata until the 1950s, when the Italian economy improved, as it is quite filling and rich in protein. The Provencal bake a similar dish, called Socca, likely developed in the centuries Provence was inhabited by Ligurians.

To be truly authentic, farinata should be baked in a very hot oven, quickly, and preferably in a heavy tin pan with a copper base, as copper transfers the heat to the batter faster and prevents it from drying out in the oven. The copper pan is heated for a few minutes on a hot stone in the oven, then olive oil is drizzled on the hot pan, and the batter is poured on: the hot pan quickly heats the olive oil and the olive oil in turn seizes the batter from the bottom, so the farinata emerges from the oven slightly crusty on the outside and still creamy within. The batter needs to rest for 12 hours before baking so the chickpea flour has a chance to fully bloom and slightly ferment. And speaking of chickpea flour: do not buy Indian or Asian chickpea flour, which has a very different flavor and is often toasted; head to an Italian market to buy imported Italian chickpea flour (farina di ceci) for best flavor.

A search of where one can buy a copper-lined farinata pan in the United States left me stumped; I could not find any source at all! So unless you are planning a trip to Italy, where you can easily buy a copper-lined pan, use a cast iron skillet instead, as that will retain and transfer heat nicely.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

  • 9 ounces untoasted chickpea flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra for serving
  • 3 and ½ cups room-temperature water
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place the chickpea flour and salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk. Slowly pour in the water, beating all the while with a whisk to avoid lumps. If needed, strain the batter through a fine sieve to eliminate lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside 12 hours at room temperature. The batter should be as thin as heavy cream and will look slightly foamy.


When you are ready to serve the farinata, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550 degrees. Place a 16-inch farinata pan or cast iron skillet (see introductory notes) on the stone in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Immediately remove from the oven and pour in the olive oil. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil.


Whisk the batter vigorously to ensure that it is of the same viscosity throughout; the flour often settles on the bottom. Immediately pour the batter into the hot farinata pan. The batter should be quite thin as it covers the pan, less than 1/4-inch thick. If there seems to be too much batter for the pan, hold some back and make a second pancake with it: if the pancake is thicker than 1/4-inch, it will bake up soggy throughout rather than crispy outside and creamy within.

Place the pan directly on the stone and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until set on the bottom and golden and starting to crack on top. If you like a thick, burnished crust on your farinata, place under a preheated broiler for 1 minute. Serve piping hot, seasoned with salt and pepper.