Most everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve been spoiled with excellent farmers markets. My hometown in northeast Illinois has fantastic summer, spring and winter markets. I visited a few farmers markets in the Twin Cities while I was in college, and was never disappointed. And Iowa City has one of the best markets I’ve ever been to (and it’s covered so, rain or shine, the vendors are present).
This past weekend, the husband and I decided to get our lazy selves up and at ‘em early (and by early, I mean out the door by 10 a.m., in true lazy fashion) and get some fresh produce from the Iowa City market. The weather wasn’t great, but the place was busting at the seams with customers — some on foot, some in strollers, some furry and on leashes. My goal was to get three things: Fresh strawberries, celery and an onion. I ended up leaving with strawberries, fresh basil and goat cheese. You see how committed I was to my list — but you can blame the absence of celery and non-green onions (and the plethora of kohlrabi! Kohlrabi! Everywhere!) for that. (I realize now that it’s a tad early for celery, if it ever does show up ’round these parts).
So, armed with my new-found ingredients, I needed a recipe with which to use them. Luckily, this gorgeous focaccia recipe had caught my eye a few days earlier (mostly because I was deeply craving a pint of strawberries), so I got to work on it. And, despite the long-ish list of ingredients and seemingly involved directions, it really is easy to make. The dough basically makes itself, and the remaining ingredients are so flavorful on their own, they barely need any tweaking (which is why this recipe lends itself well to local ingredients at their peak). And the maple-balsamic caramelized onions? Oh, dear me. This recipe alone is reason enough to get my lazy self to the farmers market more often.
Strawberry Focaccia with Maple-Balsamic Onions
Adapted from Saveur
Yields: About 8 servings as an appetizer; about 4 servings as a meal
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp honey
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup plus 5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch pieces
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped or slice chiffonade style
coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
goat cheese, for sprinkling (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine water, yeast and honey and let rest for five minutes, or until mixture bubbles. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour and salt. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the yeast mixture. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir slowly in the stand mixer, fixed with the paddle attachment, until everything is just combined. Switch to dough hook and knead dough on medium speed for about 7 minutes, add more flour 1 tbsp at a time if needed to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl. The final product should be smooth, elastic and slightly sticky to the touch, but not tacky. Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl greased with 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Roll the ball in the oil, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, up to 1 hour (mine rose insanely fast — in about 35 minutes).
Brush a 9 x 13-inch baking sheet with 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Remove dough from bowl and press into the baking sheet with your fingers until it touches the ends of the sheet (or is a 9 x 13-inch rectangle, if you’re like me and don’t have baking sheets that size). Gently press indentations into the dough with your fingertips all over the surface. Brush the dough with 2 tbsp olive oil. Let rest, lightly covered with plastic wrap, until dough puffs slightly, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until caramelized and brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and cook until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Remove onions from heat and let cool slightly.
Lightly press sliced strawberries into puffed dough, then sprinkle on onions, basil, and 1 tbsp olive oil across the top. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Baking until the focaccia is golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle goat cheese on top, if desired, or with more olive oil. Allow to cool 5 minutes before slicing.