Italian Flatbread for a Blue Moon
When my husband and I were on our honeymoon we ate focaccia every morning for breakfast. After a few cappuccinos, that is. Six between us. To fortify us for the walk across the piazza to the tiny bakery. After all, we were in Italy. Doing what you do in Italy.
Rub the garlic infused sleep from your eyes.
Pull on your jeans.
Walk to the local espresso bar.
The always smiling owner of the Podere Villuzza would greet us every morning on our way out the door, wishing us, Good day, for your blue moon!
I am thinking about our honeymoon today because our anniversary just passed. March is our month. And this time around marked our
In so many ways we are just getting started. It still feels new. Even through the toughest years- in New Mexico, the most difficult of our marriage. The most isolated. We wonder aloud over root beer and popcorn how we got through it, how we wandered into that commitment, buying that tiny casita in the middle of an empty, windswept desert. On impulse. Investing all we had in curved adobe walls and tile floors tough enough to break a hip on.
We look into each others eyes for answers.
There are none.
We were bewitched, I tell my husband. We were infatuated. With the light. The summer monsoon skies. The smell of roasting chile. It was a seduction. The desert pulled us in and whispered stories in our ear, weaving her magic like a smoke screen, letting us feel as if we belonged there. Soothing our east coast gringo fears that it might be rough giving up our roots, our community, the quick jaunt to fetch the morning newspaper, grab an espresso, or browse in a book store.
We believed in the power of space and sky. We imagined inspiration dripping from our pores in the sandpaper heat. We embraced the notion of alchemy and willingly submitted ourselves to burn, trusting the process.
It worked for Georgia O'Keeffe.
Be careful of your heroes, I've learned. Choose carefully. I identified so strongly with Georgia- her strength, her depression, her stubbornness. Her colors. The way she painted the world. It all felt so intimate and true, so deep down familiar. And so for years I spun a narrative in my associative brain. A dream of the painted desert and her earthy pigments. Images of mud huts and fierce blue sky. A belief these imaginings were destiny, a trust that I was meant to live in New Mexico, that it was here I would find my home.
Because I have never felt at home.
Except in my husband's grasp. The first time I shook his hand I knew. He was my country. And so we sit together and sift through possibilities once more, this time more sober. This time without the flush and dazzle of infatuation. We speak of dreams gingerly now. Step by step. We examine and turn over each impulse looking for the hidden. The unconsidered.
It took almost three years to sell the casita. We lowered our price. And lowered it again. To less than what we paid for it. We swept it clean every time the realtor called for a showing. We baked cookies to fill the kitchen with vanilla and spice. We crossed our fingers.
The truth is we fell out of love- not with each other- but with the desert. Why she clung to us we do not know. They like to say in Santa Fe that the desert pulls you in like a magnet, and if you don't belong she spits you out. The night I fell and broke my hip- the night that changed how I navigate the world- forever- I said to Steve-- She has spit me out.
Today in our Connecticut (rented) barn studio I stack unopened jars of paint next to a bundle of clean brushes and palette knives. I pick through memories. I think about beginnings. Our blue moon in Italy. Biting into tender, fresh baked breads scented with garlic and adorned with fresh tomatoes. I decide it's time to bake a focaccia. Like the ones we ate in San Gimignano. Before we set down roots. Before we ever bought a house.
I turn to my husband and tell him, I'm going to bake a focaccia today.
And from now on?
Let's rent first.
Tomato-Garlic Focaccia - Italian Flatbread RecipeRecipe originally posted March 2009.
Flatbreads are super easy to make. Don't be intimidated. You can stir up a dough, plop it into a cake pan, rise and bake it in under an hour. And it's delicious with gluten-free flours.
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour!) or tapioca starch
1/2 cup millet flour or certified GF oat flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons each: chopped rosemary, thyme, basil
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cup warm water (at 110º F)
A pinch of raw sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey or raw agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon mild rice vinegar or lemon juice
1 free range egg, beaten, or Ener-G Egg Replacer, mixed
A dusting of GF cornmeal
Note: You'll need sliced fresh garlic and tomatoes for topping.
Turn on the oven briefly- just to warm it; then turn it off.
Whisk together the flours, starch, xanthan gum, sea salt, garlic, and herbs in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, proof the yeast in warm water and pinch of sugar.
When the yeast is poofy, pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, honey, vinegar, and egg or egg replacer.
Stir to combine. The dough should be sticky- it doesn't really feel like typical wheat bread dough- more like a thick muffin batter.
Scoop the dough into a 9-inch cake pan dusted with cornmeal.
Using wet hands pat and shape the dough into a rounded loaf.
Top with sliced tomatoes and fresh garlic; sprinkle with extra herbs, if you like, and a little coarse sea salt.
Place the pan into the warm oven and allow it to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
Turn on the oven to 375ºF.
Once the oven is 375º put the timer on for 20 minutes. Bake until golden and firm- from 25 to 35 minutes. When you thump it, it should sound hollow.
Remove from the pan as soon as you can handle it, and cool on a wire rack. Slice with a sharp bread knife.
Makes one loaf.
Recipe Source: glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com
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My focaccia took 30 to 35 minutes to bake without eggs. If you use eggs, the loaf might be done sooner. Keep an eye on it and test for doneness. If it seems to be doughy, bake longer. Everyone's oven is slightly different, and humidity /heat affects flours.
To make panini with this loaf- cut the loaf into squarish pieces; slice these in half, horizontally, stuff with sandwich fillings and grill in a dab of olive oil- scrumptious.
Slice thin wedges for serving with a dipping plate of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar.
This focaccia freezes well. We thawed two wedges and sliced them; grilled them in olive oil and topped with Italian deli fixin's for an easy, simple supper.