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focaccia for feasting (or, the flaming little toaster)

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

The other day, I set a small corn tortilla on fire. In the toaster oven. It wasn’t intentional, of course. All I wanted to do was smash some avocado on top of it, sprinkle it with sea salt and cracked pepper and eat it as a snack before I left the house to run errands. I was in the dining room, just out of sight of the toaster oven, writing a birthday card to my sister (happy birthday, Sara!). I know now that I should have stayed in the kitchen, but I wanted the tortilla to get very toasty, not just warmed, and so I was leaving it alone. I was quite unconcerned about that cute little corn tortilla. Until I walked into the kitchen to find it ablaze, the toaster oven glowing as orange flames licked the glass door. My first thought was to grab my phone and Google extinguishing small home fire toaster oven, but I quickly realized the foolishness of that plan.

lemons + rosemary Meyer Lemon Focaccia

While my heart thumped wildly, I used metal tongs to remove the flaming and/or charred bits of tortilla from the toaster oven and submerged them in water in a large glass bowl. I flicked more water at the lingering bits of flame. I ran into the other room to climb onto a chair and stop the now-shrieking smoke detector. I opened the windows and fetched the fan from the closet.

When I finally sat down, I no longer wanted to leave the house. Perhaps ever. I was sure that if I did, some bit of blackened tortilla would somehow catch fire again and I’d burn the whole apartment building down. It might be worth noting, at this point, my childhood fear of house fires. I was pretty ruined for the afternoon.

Meyer Lemon Focaccia Meyer Lemon Focaccia Meyer Lemon Focaccia

This to say: life is hard. There are piles of papers to sort through and dusty corners in the closets and emails begging for response. Things go well, and then they go wrong. All you want is a snack, but even that turns into a catastrophe.

But you know what? It’s okay. I did not, in fact, burn the apartment building down. We’re doing it, this thing of life, you and me. We figure out our problems and tackle one and move on to the next. We wash our laundry while knowing more will pile up. We do our taxes. We tick things off our lists. We fight and make up, fight and make up. Bad things happen; we continue forward. We manage. We keep on.

And meanwhile, we gather, feast, love, throw weeknight dinner parties, eat dessert, revel revel revel in this life we’ve been given.

So high fives all around for paying bills and cleaning the toilet and making dinner and loving well and getting up every day to do it again. Life is hard, but it is good. Make some focaccia while the lemons are in season, pass it around the table, laugh as much as possible, live the life you’ve got.

But don’t toast tortillas in your toaster oven. That is a very bad idea.

Meyer Lemon Focaccia Meyer Lemon Focaccia

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

Adapted from Food52 and Melissa Clark’s New York Times “A Good Appetite” column

The basic idea of a Meyer lemon and herb focaccia came from Food52; the dough I adapted from a fantastic recipe by Melissa Clark (links above). The resulting focaccia, which combines a very significant number of my favorite ingredients, is both sweet and salty, with a bit of crunch from the cornmeal and the aforementioned sugar and salt and bursts of flavor from the citrus and rosemary. It’s a winner.

FOR THE DOUGH

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

3/4 cup water, lukewarm

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup fine cornmeal

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

FOR ASSEMBLY

2 small Meyer lemons, skins on, sliced as thinly as possible

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons coarse sugar, like demerara or turbinado

2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, like Maldon

TO MAKE THE DOUGH

In a small skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Stir in 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves. Remove the pan from the heat; let cool.

Place the water in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

To the yeast mixture, add the olive oil and rosemary, flours, cornmeal, granulated sugar and salt. Stir until a soft dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add more flour if needed (about 1/4 cup might be necessary; use all-purpose).

Oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat lightly with the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and place in a warm place. Allow to rise until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour.

TO ASSEMBLE

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking pan (11 x 17 inch) with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough, then place it on the pan and pat it down, stretching it into an oval about 1/2-inch thick. It will not quite fill the pan. Dimple the dough with your fingertips.

Scatter the lemon slices and additional 2 teaspoons of rosemary over the dough. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with the coarse sugar and flaky sea salt.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Yield: 4 large (dinner) or 6 – 12 small (appetizer) servings

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

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