Mmm, Eastern European food, doesn’t it just make your mouth water…or does it make you think of old women with scarfs tied around their heads huddled around a big trash can full of fire, playing violins?
I’m still traveling on my tour de new cookbook so I’ve selected two new recipes to try out: Focaccia with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Spread from Home Made, and Scandinavian Mixed Greens and Apples with Juniper Vinaigrette (or as I like to think of it, Eastern European Salad) from Susan Feniger’s Street Food
Full disclosure: I love focaccia. When we were younger we would go to the Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning, and then follow up the trip with a stop at MacKenzie’s Bakery. It was here I first tasted the fluffy and delightful flat bread (although I assume my love for it blossomed from the fact that it’s basically a pizza, and I was allowed to eat it for breakfast). For the first few years of this tradition I had no idea I was pronouncing it wrong. Fo-Kot-See-Ah rather than Fo-Caach-Yah. How dare no one tell 8-year-old Erica she was making a mockery of the slow-risen dough arts? So naturally when I came across the Mini Focaccia recipe in Homemade, I simply HAD to make it.
And if you have errands to run, starting bread is the prefect activity to start before you leave the house because it’ll proof (rise) for as long or longer than you need it to, and since you’ve been busy trying to drive in this town without hitting some of THOSE DAMN JAYWALKING STUDENTS you’ll forget you even started it, and have a pleasant surprise waiting for you when you get home. And nothing calms you down from said driving more than gently pressing oiled dough onto a baking sheet and carefully distributing dimples throughout.
And what pairs with this bread? A roasted red pepper and goat cheese spread of course! This is the first time I’ve tried to roast my own peppers at home since I don’t have a grill (I know, I’ll be lamenting this all Summer long…everything EVERYTHING tastes better on a grill), and the process comes from placing a fresh pepper directly on the flame of a gas stove burner.
Well, it worked with flying colors, and I felt like a badass doing it (although everyone in my house kept saying “is someone smoking? it smells like smoke” or “Erica are you serious with this, you’re going to burn this mother down”). Once the pepper is nice and roasted/burned/chared/whatever you want to call it, place in a plastic bag for 30 minutes to give it a nice sweat. Once nice and sweaty, remove the outer charred skin (since it’s bitter) and prepare for goat cheese-ification.
A few changes I made: the recipe calls for mint, but I had cilantro readily available, so I made the switch to give a little “authentico” feel (#ifyaknowwhatimean), and for some reason the grocery store didn’t have jalapeños (que?) so I used pablanos. And as I’m about to add the Goat Cheese, I realize I didn’t read the recipe fully, and it calls for FOUR CUPS of Goat Cheese. Do you know how much money that would cost? I only found 2 pennies on the ground during my runs this week, I can’t afford that much creamed gold. And I don’t think any amount of homemade Focaccia can handle 4 cups worth of goat cheese spread. So I used 2oz. Needless to say, the “spread” was more of a soupy dip since the “juiciness” of the peppers comprised most of the raw materials. However, it was still delicious.
And speaking of Authentico…
Now on to our Eastern European-inspired salad. The “exotic” ingredient in the dressing is ground Juniper Berries, and I winced thinking about how much a little vile of it would be when I only needed 2 tsp, but low and behold, I live less than 1/2 mile from Spice Merchants, a lovely shop full of (wait for it) spices! I got to park for free since it was Sunday, and when I walked in the Juniper Berries were literally in front of the main entrance at eye level (things were coming up Vitkin!).
This gets added to a dynamite mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, and honey (which is the basis for any great dressing, seriously, you never need to buy a vinaigrette again, just use that base and go crazy with other additions like mustard, spices, fresh herbs, blended roasted veggies, etc). Sidenote: I just found this about Juniper Berries, so naturally I’m freaking out “If you have been using juniper berry tea for several weeks and you urine smells like violets, you have been using the herb too long. Continued overdose can cause renal irritation and blood in the urine, so only use in moderation” [horrifying Juniper Berry information source]
So what does this violet pee-inducing vinaigrette go on top of? A salad of sliced apples, shredded gouda, fresh greens, watercress, and toasted almonds. Like I said, soooooo Eastern European…
The Focaccia turned out well, but it was very dry. Something I love and hate about a great focaccia is that it leaves you with big grease stains on the sides of your pants because who has time for a napkin. This one left my pants in pristine condition, so making this again I would definitely up the olive oil in both the dough, and the pre-baking prep.
As I start to go for round 2 of this salad, I can’t help but worry about the future of my urine…