Tag: eggplant

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

This is one of my most beloved summer scenes: juicy focaccia topped with fragrant herbs on the table next to an aromatic selection of cheese and a chilled bottle of rosé wine waiting to be opened. Sometimes it impresses me how easy it can be to create a little holiday even in my own home. Although I have to admit that warm temperatures and a clear blue evening sky definitely help to put my mind in the right mood, scrumptious food is even more efficient.

I used my reliable focaccia recipe to make the soft Italian bread, it’s so oily that my fingers feel deliciously smooth and sticky after each bite. Last year I fell in love with a topping of dark grapes and rosemary, in 2015 I’m falling for an almost pizza-like creation. I picked a selection of rosemary, thyme and sage right from the front row of my window sill garden, chopped them finely and spread the green crumbles over the puffy, risen yeast dough. Thin slices of zucchini and aubergine came next to form a pretty grid pattern and add their summery fruitiness. To finish it off, I sprinkled my golden focaccia with fresh oregano and parmesan. It’s such a teaser, when I opened the door to take out the baking sheet, the warm smell of yeast, herbs and cheese caressed my nose. At this point, I definitely felt like I was somewhere in the south of Italy.

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

For a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ focaccia you need

plain flour 500g / 17 1/2oz
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
salt 1 teaspoon
sugar 1 heaped teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 1 cup and 2 tablespoons
olive oil 120ml / 1/2 cup (half for the dough and half for the topping)
fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), finely chopped, 2 generous tablespoons
small zucchini, very thinly sliced (best with a vegetable/ mandoline slicer), 1
medium sized aubergine, very thinly sliced, 1/2
flaky sea salt, for the topping
parmesan, grated, 3 heaped tablespoons
fresh oregano, the leaves of a small handful of sprigs (about 2 heaped tablespoon)

In  a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and half the olive oil (60ml / 1/4 cup) and mix with the hooks of an electric mixer for a few minutes until smooth and well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for a few minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven (top / bottom heat, no fan) for 45-60 minutes.

Take the dough out, punch it down and knead for 1 minute. Spread the dough on an oiled baking sheet with your hands until it measures roughly 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.

Set the oven to 220°C / 430°F (top / bottom heat).

Punch about 6 x 7 holes into the surface of the dough, you can use the round bottom of a wooden spoon or your finger. Pour half of the remaining olive oil (30ml / 1/8 cup) over the dough and into the holes. Use the remaining 30ml / 1/8 cup of oil to thinly coat the sliced vegetables on both sides with your hand. Sprinkle the focaccia with the chopped herbs and lay the oiled vegetables in a cross pattern on top (start with the zucchini and continue with the aubergine). Season with sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and light brown on top. When it’s done, sprinkle with parmesan and oregano and leave in the hot oven for 1 minute.

Enjoy warm or cold at a summery table full of fruits, cheese and wine!

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

 

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Herb Focaccia with Zucchini and Aubergine

Baked Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary and golden Polenta Slices

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta

This pale aubergine mousse isn’t a beauty but its taste and smooth texture make up for it! Something changes in the purple fruit’s  flavour when it has been cooking in the oven. If you fry it in a pan or cook it in a stew it’s nice but only oven baking manages to extract the aubergine’s finer qualities. Sliced, grilled and filled like my aubergine rolls or baked in foil which turns the aubergine into a soft mousse. Both recipes leave no doubt as to why aubergines are so popular in Mediterranean cooking!

Baking aubergines al Cartoccio together with spices and herbs allows them to become infused with lots of different flavours. The spongey flesh, its soft texture is perfect to absorb tasty liquids and aromatic steam which is why they are also know to soak up so much olive oil! Rosemary was my herb of choice this time which I also used for the golden fried polenta slices. I’m a big fan of this yellow corn, either turned into a thick purée and mixed with gravy and meat or fried, buttery and crisp.

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta

 Baked Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary and golden Polenta Slices

For 2-3 people you need

aubergine, cut in half, 1
garlic,  4 cloves in their skin
rosemary, the needles of 3-4 sprigs
olive oil 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F.

Place the aubergine on a big piece of aluminum foil, sprinkle with olive oil and some rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Turn the fruit’s cut side down, add some more rosemary and the garlic and close the pouch. Bake on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes till soft. Check if the flesh is soft and scrape it out with a spoon. Mix in a bowl together with the soft roasted garlic, some of the roasted rosemary and season with salt and pepper, mash with a fork.

 

For the polenta

polenta 120g / 4 ounces
water 250ml / 8.5 ounces plus around 100ml / 3.5 ounces for cooking
milk 250ml / 8.5 ounces
salt 1 teaspoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons plus more to grease the baking dish
butter for frying 3-5 tablespoons
rosemary, the needles of 2 sprigs

In a sauce pan, heat the water and milk, add the salt and bring to a boil. Take the pan off the heat, add the olive oil and polenta and whisk. Turn down the heat to the lowest temperature and put the pan back on. Cook the polenta for 10 minutes mixing and adding more water once in a while.

Grease a 28 x 20cm / 11 x 8″ baking dish with olive oil. Pour the polenta into the baking dish, let it cool for around 10 minutes. When the polenta is cold and a bit hard, flip the baking dish gently around, either on cling film or directly on your working surface, mine is made of marble and it worked fine. Cut the polenta into diamond shapes and fry in hot butter together with the rosemary on both sides, just for a couple minutes till golden.

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta

 

Roast Aubergine Mousse with Rosemary + Polenta