Monday, August 26, 2013
Black Cherry & Rosemary Focaccia // On Dining at Home (Week 2)
Sometimes, I think people have a lot of misconceptions about what it is really like to own a business. Occasionally, I find that certain friends have far-off fantasies about what our day-to-day lives are actually like. Often, these fantasies involve the chef and I sleeping in well past a respectable hour. Eventually, we wake up and slowly make our way to a farmer's market or two, where we casually press and sniff the fresh produce, lost in our daydreams. At some point we meander into our shop. There, we neatly tie crisp white aprons around our waists, spend an hour or two slicing vegetables, thumbing through cookbooks and instructing employees before excusing ourselves to a nearby cafe where we pass our remaining work hours sipping craft beers and allowing our business to simply run itself.
Yesterday marked our one week anniversary, and I assure you that these fantasies could not be further from the truth. In total, the chef and I have spent five waking hours together outside of the shop this past week, nearly all of which has revolved around conversations about the shop that we engage in while squeezing in and out of our home bathroom to sneak in a shower or brush our teeth. Yesterday, while I spent the day at home to take care of paperwork and publicity, the chef was in the shop by 7:00 a.m. and returned to our bed at a cool 3:30 a.m. (I'll let you do the math). And while I'd love (LOVE) nothing more than an afternoon of casual day drinking, these days we've been surviving mostly on mediocre coffee from the bodega up the street.
And yet, after only one week into this new venture, in between mopping up the floors and taking out the trash (there is no such thing as a hierarchy in a professional kitchen), we've found a great deal of happiness. No, we don't get to sleep until noon. And no, we don't get to pass all the difficult and dirty tasks down to our employees. But each day, we do get to slide plates containing our own creative creations across our counter and into customer's hands. And sometimes (sometimes), we do get to spend time at our favorite market, losing ourselves in the colors of the season in the name of our work. And every night, before we turn off the lights and lock the door to the 2nd Avenue shop, we are able to take a brief step back and look at this space that we created -- this place that, just a few weeks ago, did not exist -- and know that it is ours.
Another misconception a lot of people have is that the chef and I spend a large chunk of our time eating out. While it is true that we really enjoy trying out new places and exploring different cuisines, what we really love is cooking great meals at home for us, for our family, and for our friends. No meal is too casual or too intricate for our scratched up kitchen table, which is why we make a very conscious effort to cook (and eat) dinner together at home several nights a week. However, right now, with all our attention on the new shop, we simply can't. Yesterday, for the first time in more than two and a half weeks (a true record setter for us!), the chef and I left our full trust in our staff and finally stepped away from the shop in order to enjoy a home cooked meal.
This black cherry and rosemary focaccia -- which we served alongside salmon with a lemon and herb sauce, roasted baby bok choy, and a lightly dressed mixture of local greens -- was everything we needed this week. A few generous glugs of olive oil (don't skimp on the olive oil...if you feel like you're using too much, you're using just enough) insure that this focaccia bakes up into a beautifully crisp bread that is a perfect, rustic side to almost any meal; however, don't let that fool you. It is also completely worthy of being eaten all on its own (in sweatpants, say, while catching up on bad Bravo programming long after your husband has fallen asleep). While the rosemary gives this dough a very subtle (and familiar) herby flavor, it is the combination of well-seasoned bread and sweet, juicy black cherries that finally left the chef and I feeling satiated after a long few weeks. Of course, there is no doubt that this focaccia tastes incredible. However, I'll let you in on a little secret: what really saved me this week was the scent of something freshly baked filling up our home again.
Black Cherry & Rosemary Focaccia Bread
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup water
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 cups fresh black cherries, sliced and pitted
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Combine 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gently mix to incorporate. Heat the water and two tablespoons of the oil until warm. Add the water, oil and egg to the yeast mixture. Blend until moist, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 1 3/4 cup flour while beating, and continue to beat until a dough forms.
Working on a floured surface, knead the remaining flour into the dough. Form the dough into a ball and cover with a bowl for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, generously grease a baking sheet with about 2 tablespoons of oil (it should look like too much oil). Press the dough and flatten it across the sheet (it should cover about half of a full sized baking sheet). Cover with plastic wrap and a dry towel and place in a cool oven for 30 minutes.
In a medium skillet, cook the rosemary, cherries, lemon zest and 1-2 tablespoons of oil for about 5 minutes (just enough that the cherries begin to soften). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Uncover the dough. Grease the dough with about 1 tablespoon of oil. Turn the dough over and grease the other side with about 1 more tablespoon of oil. Create indents in the dough with a wooden spoon handle (at approximately 1-inch intervals). Spoon the cherry mixture across the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Bake the focaccia until it is golden and the edges are crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet and slide onto a wooden cutting board. Slice into generous pieces and enjoy.