Squash and Potato Focaccia with Bay and Pecorino

* This post was created in partnership with California Olive Ranch. We’ve been working together this year  to bring you some special recipes that highlight this beautiful olive oil. I’ve been using their olive oil for years now because they produce a high quality oil for an everyday price. They work with farmers in California and around the world to source their olive oil in order to create perfect blends.

As always the words, images and opinions are my own. A very hearty thank you to all of you who support the brands that believe in the work I do here.

As much as I love the abundance of produce in the summer it’s fall that I’d consider to be the season of cooking. There’s a chill in the air that settles me inside. I’m home, warm and content. As the rain patters against the window and the gray settles in I take it upon myself, a duty and an honor, to fill the air with scents of spice, roasts and freshly wakened yeast. Simple joys when slowly added together build a lifetime of loving memories.

Now that we’re settling back into a rhythm and routine of the fall and the sun softens its heat, the oven is back on, dinner is once again served round the table and I’m happy.

This focaccia recipe is from my latest book, Let’s Stay In. I loved it when I wrote it (which is why it’s in the book) but since publication this recipe has been fully lived in. The dough comes together quickly and while it can handle a slow rise it’s not required. I can throw the dough together between inbox sessions then about 30 minutes before we plan to eat I ravage the fridge and figure out what to throw on top. Served with a simple salad it makes a stunning meal that doesn’t feel as thrown together as it really is. 

 

As luck would have it on this particular day I had a delicata squash and a potato sitting next to one another in the vegetable bowl. While I’m the only one in the family who heralds squash season with fanfare this simple pizza of sorts got rave reviews from each seat at the table.

Bay leaves add a fragrant floral note but rosemary would also do nicely here, as would sage or thyme. I thought Parmesan would finish the focaccia but it turns out pecorino is what I had on hand. All of that to say, this is endlessly adaptable. 

Squash and Potato Focaccia with Bay and Pecorino

Ingredients

3 cups / 1 lb/ 455 g flour

1 tablespoon rapid -rise yeast

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 cup / 10 ounces/ 300 ml warm water

1/4 cup / 1 3/4 ounce / 60 ml California Olive Ranch Destination Series Mild & Buttery olive oil

1/2 delicata squash, deseeded

1/2 large yukon gold potato

5 fresh bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon chili flake

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino

Instructions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or in a large bowl using your hands as the dough hook) add the flour, yeast, sea salt, and sugar. Mix just a few seconds to combine. Stir in the warm water and olive oil then knead until a smooth, sticky dough forms. Let this rise until doubled, about an hour, or plop into a greased and lidded container in the fridge overnight.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

After the first rise add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a parchment lined sheet pan. Add the dough to the pan and coat the dough in the oil. Start to press the dough to cover the pan. It will resist at first but stretch it as far as it wants to go then let it rest a few minutes then stretch again. Continue until the dough reaches all four corners of the pan.

Using a mandolin (or a very sharp knife) slice the delicata squash very thin, about 1/8-inch. Cut the potato in half lengthwise and slice using the same thickness. They need to be sliced super thin in order to cook through in the oven.

Layer the squash and potato on the focaccia dough until covered then slip in the bay leaves. Sprinkled with chili flake, olive oil and flake salt. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the focaccia is golden brown around the edges and the squash a potato is cooked through.

Finish with the pecorino.

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Melon Salad with Candied Walnuts and Lime

*This post was created in partnership with California Walnuts. I have loved working with them this year to bring you some season-inspired recipes with walnuts as the star. As always, the words, images and recipes are mine. 

 

There’s always a moment at the end of summer when I see the slightest shift of color on the leaves, or feel a brief chill in the air and then that’s it, I’m ready for fall. That moment hasn’t happened yet. 

We’re still squeezing every last drop of sunshine out of summer. In fact, we’re currently on a road trip right now that will bring us the home mere hours before the first day of school. We’re dipping our toes into rivers so cold our feet instantly numb. We’re eating the sort of food that one does when on a road trip and making memories all along the way. We’re making the absolute most of summer and it feels exactly right.

I know that moment will come, as it always does. In that instant I’ll be ready to braise, roast and sip on long simmered soups once again. For now I’m still craving the tart, sweet pop of cherry tomatoes and the candy-like juices that dribble down my chin and arms while biting into a pillow soft peach. And melon salads that tips towards the savory with the help of a pungent red onion and peppery olive oil. Candied walnuts add crunch and depth of flavor while fresh lime juice brings an addictive zip. 

The walnuts here are deeply toasted then coated in a simple caramel. If you feel a bit adventurous add a few chili flakes or smoked paprika to the caramel to teeter the line of sweet and savory. Either way this salad is a simple reminder that summer still lingers on.

 

Melon Salad with Candied Walnuts and Lime

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves

Flake salt

1 small honeydew melon

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 lime

Olive oil

Instructions

Toast the walnuts in a 350°F oven until fragrant and deepened in color. Put the walnuts in a large heatproof bowl but keep a parchment lined sheet pan nearby. 

Add the sugar to a small saucepan set over high heat. Melt the sugar until deeply caramelized, it will start smoking lightly. Swirl the pan or stir to caramelize evenly. 

Working quickly pour the caramel over the walnuts then stir to evenly coat. Once coated immediately dump the walnuts to the sheet pan and separate with a fork. The caramel hardens very quickly. Add a hefty pinch of flake salt then let cool.

Once cool, transfer the walnuts to a cutting board then roughly chop.

Remove the seeds and peel from the melon then shave into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler. You can also cut into cubes if you prefer. 

Transfer the melon to a platter then add the sliced red onion. Squeeze the lime all over the top, drizzle with olive oil then add the walnuts. Finish with flake salt. 

For a more substantial salad add arugula, sliced endive or treviso. 

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