I just heard that our ability to purchase tomatoes has become a little more difficult due to the cold weather Florida has experienced the past month. Fresh tomatoes aren't often on my grocery list this time of year, and I don't need to explain why. We all know how disappointingly tasteless tomatoes are out-of-season. I use canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes in place of fresh whenever possible.
There is the rare instance, however, that I will sneak a fresh, grocery store tomato into a meal -- a Guacamole for example, the White Beans & Savory Cabbage that was so wonderful I made it twice in one week, and the Ina Garten Sun-dried Tomato Pasta that incorporates a few fresh tomatoes into the mix. And when a recipe needs fresh tomatoes this time of year, I will buy cherry tomatoes. You can always count on them having more sweetness than a larger tomato; by no means perfect, but I figure it's all we've got when we're desperate for tomatoes.
When I ran across this Tomato Focaccia recipe from the book, The Heirloom Tomato by Amy Goldman, I had to calm my distrust (or should I say disgust) of the fresh winter tomato. I purchased a container of grape tomatoes and headed home to make the flatbread. It was very good. I'm going to try it again with little red and yellow peak-of-summer heirloom tomatoes when available. Then, it will be amazing.
Note: I suggest to just warm the garlic in the pan ever so slightly. It will brown quite a bit in the oven. Also, I used my preserved basil as a garnish after pulling the focaccia from the oven. Fresh basil would certainly be more attractive and a first choice, but I'll wait to do that until I have fresh in my garden this summer.
Cherry Tomato Focaccia
from The Heirloom Tomato by Amy Goldman
• 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
• 3/4 cup lukewarm water, 110˚ to 115˚
• 1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar
• 2/3 cup bread flour
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 cup water at room temperature
• 1/4 cup fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
• 1 pint assorted cherry and currant tomatoes (heirloom, if at all possible)
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
• 3 tablespoons basil leaves, chiffonade or thinly sliced
• 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
1. Sprinkle dry yeast over lukewarm water and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in honey or sugar and let rest until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Add bread flour, combine to form a sponge and let rest 30 minutes. In separate bowl combine remaining flours and salt. Make a well in middle and add sponge, 3/4 cup oil and remaining cup of water. Mix by hand or in electric mixer with paddle until rough textured. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Place in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm spot, about 80˚, until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
2. While dough is doubling, warm 1/4 cup olive oil in small saucepan, add garlic and cook until tender - do not brown. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
4. Brush cookie sheet with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place dough in center and gently press into a rectangle, about 8" x 12".
5. When dough begins to rise, spread cooled garlic and olive oil evenly over top. Place whole tomatoes on surface of dough pressing lightly to fix in place. Allow dough to rise to double in volume, surrounding tomatoes.
6. Bake focaccia until browned, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if using, and bake a few minutes more.
7. Sprinkle with basil and salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.