Category Archives: Homemade

The Chef Mavens Homemade Pesto Focaccia Bread Recipe

pesto foccacia with shallots

pesto foccacia with shallots

So with the winter upon us, and yet another snow-bound day stuck at home I have continued with baking up a storm in hopes to match the storm outside my windows in New York. I decided to take my pizza dough recipe and turn it into a wonderful pesto foccacia bread with a few shallots baked on top along with a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper to spice it up just a bit.

There are many variations of course that you can create the right focaccia just for you and some of those suggestions are listed below.

To make this delectable side bread, it’s easier that saying pizza pie!

The How To’s…

1) You can either make your own homemade pizza dough (which is what I did) or buy store bought pizza dough and then adding three tablespoons of pesto (link goes to my easy and affordable to make pesto recipe) into the dough using a mix master or by kneading it in with your hands.

2) While stretching the dough into a rectangle onto a oiled cookie sheet, preheat your oven to at least 400 degrees. The using your fingers – sort of ‘type’ on the bread creating little ‘valleys’ – the photo above shows some of those divets made by my fingers…

3) Add various toppings – as pictured I added a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper, freshly cracked pepper, course kosher salt and sliced shallots on top before placing the foccacia dough into the oven for baking. Then drizzle a little olive oil on the top – max two tablespoons, you are not trying to drown the dough.

4) Once your particular toppings are on – place into a preheated oven at 400 degrees and let bake for roughly 20 minutes. Dough should be nicely lightly browned. Let cool slightly – then either slice into strips or tear off pieces and serve up with your favorite salad or pasta dish.

I tore off a few pieces and dipped them into hazelnut oil – oh deviously delicious!

Other delicious and possible topping combinations: don’t forget to drizzle a little olive oil prior to baking…

1) chopped sun-dried tomatoes, fresh rosemary chopped and crumbled goat cheese

2) Chopped/sliced kalamata black olives, crumbled feta cheese and sliced shallots.

3) Simply plain with just adding salt & pepper on top.

Once finished, wonderfully browned – you can either cut it into strips or tear off pieces and serve it up with your salads. I took a little and dipped it in hazelnut oil – just incredibly yummy!

Let me know what combinations you have come up with, I’d love to hear about them!

chow ciao for now!

The Chef Maven

Going Green on Earth Day and Beyond

As I walked my dog this morning, I was reminded how ever grateful I am, while I sucked the fumes from passing trucks and cars into my lungs, that I do not travel ‘to go to work’ as I have done in my earlier years which was by train, by car, by highway, etc.

You see, I work from home. I may go visit my clients during the week by automobile, but I actually use my car less than 2 hours a week, yes that’s less than 2 hours a week.

In fact just yesterday, I thought I should check on my car insurance rates to see if I could lower my annual fees since I drive so little. I even laughed at myself a few weeks ago when I was traveling north on the New York Sprain Parkway heading home.

I had realized I am no longer one of those  ‘rat race highway drivers’ and was quite frankly a little taken aback at how, during those rush hours, people drove was seemed like maniacs all around me. Where were they all going to and why did they drive so fast and so dangerously?

You see, I was in the middle lane, going the speed limit, while cars whooshed by me like I was simply standing still. I laughed at myself since I felt I had changed. I no longer was the one who was rushing to get home. Nor was I one of those people who was rushing to get to work either.

I wondered why everyone was in such a rush? Why was everyone in a ‘racing’ mode to get to and from their destinations, did not their own safety and the safety of others count as any importance to their commute?

I ask on this Earth Day and every day thereafter, to remember your fellow travelers, that they too have family they wish to arrive home safely to, and along with you, be reminded that speeding only has you spending more of your valuable money on gas.

And on the another note, last night I caught the most interesting rather disturbing yet prolific and insightful movie titled, “Food, Inc.” on PBS‘ show P.O.V (Point of View).

I do know some of you have already caught this movie, and even others of you may have been forewarned due to its real look at how our food is made. This movie surprised me and I was fortunate enough to record it to my DVR, so that I can revisit this movie since there was so much information I felt that I had missed in its first viewing.

This movie discusses real issues, our government’s tactics, organizations and companies who manipulate and control so much of our food supply – I was rather dumbfounded and although I would love to rant about what was mentioned in this movie, I really suggest you catching it for you to make your own conclusions and for you to take actions by what foods you purchase on a daily basis for you and your family. Really!

I had become a vegetarian within the first few minutes….

I was enlightened by what I saw in this movie and wanted to relocate to a place immediately where I could grow my own food. Then I thought of all the work, back breaking work, for running a small farm. It’s one thing to have a garden and even a large garden but running a small farm is not easy by any means.

Weeding and I have never been the best of partners and I have always grown organically – it was how I was raised. We didn’t use pesticides – and in recent years, I invited neighborhood children and their parents in joining me in releasing a purchased jar of lady bugs as natural deterrents to aphids on my roses and other plants.

Do I miss those days before the deer started moving in (or is it us moving into their territory?) where the deer would feed on our azaleas and hostas?   ‘Hostas to deer is the equivalent of fresh endive to us humans’, a line I would mention and repeat more than a few times to friends when complaining about the deer problem here in Westchester, New York.

It got so bad at times, I would give the deer, as one tactic, whole wheat bread and apples cut up. When I called the cats in for the night during dusk, the deer had learned to come on ‘in’ too. Friends were amazed at how I had trained these deer to come into our large back yard. The feeding of the deer was to hopefully get them full enough to leave my flowers alone. And the cats and deer soon became good friends, really!

I was not attempting to train the deer in anyway, they had already learned to take their own path to my home for years, eat on the apples from the apple trees in the front yard during the late summer and autumn months – And as I fed the birds in their feeders, frequently, the deer would sleep underneath the bird feeders to catch any seeds by morning.

I would often joke that the light beacon that showed that the electric fence was on was actually a deer beacon to say, sure, come down the driveway, and eat at Quinn’s Fresh Apple Farm – There’s Enough for the Whole Herd! What a waste of electricity is was.

My Next Green Move on this Earth Day:

Today I am going to visit a small empty lot next to my building, remove the debris from this yard that I can and scatter wild flower seeds among a few other types of flowers. I will also take the few plant containers I have and clean them up to plant a few fresh herbs I often use for my cooking. I currently have very little space where I live now and can only have a few containers filled with herbs, but it’s enough to cover the fresh herbs and few tomatoes I use during the season.

I will rethink how I can limit my own carbon foot imprint on our one planet earth even more. I am a believer and user of freecycle.org, slow food practices (eating and making homemade food and purchasing food that is as local as possible) and take the vow now to go homemade and homegrown food more than ever in any way I can, from shopping at my local farmers market, to being more aware of how my processed food maybe affecting my own health.

On this Earth Day, review what is in your food cabinets, pantry and refrigerator. Take even one item out and read its ingredients – can you pronounce easily every ingredient on that list? Can your child? Make your own vow today to change how you eat and what you select to bring into your home.

I know I will certainly make a few meat dishes here and there for my parties, but my demand for real organics has just gone way up as a result of watching Food, Inc.!

See how much energy you are using in your home. Are there any electronics you can unplug, lights that can be turned off?  Are there any energy-efficient light bulbs in your lamps?

Be creative not only on Earth Day, but on every day to remove your carbon foot print. And yes, even one person times many individuals can make a whole big difference! Join the Green Team.

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