Oh, electricity how I missed you….the hum of the refrigerator, the whir and cool breeze of the fan, the joy of showering in the light. But, oh, wireless internet connection, I missed you most of all. So good to have you back.
Things are gradually returning to normal here in Washington, DC after the hurriquake and several days with no power at our house. What’s that? Oh, you don’t know what a hurriquake is?
A hurriquake is the unnatural occurrence of two natural disasters – an earthquake and a hurricane – in one location within a short time period. In this case, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit DC on Tuesday with a series of 4.something aftershocks over several days followed by Hurricane Irene on Saturday and Sunday.
Please know that I’m not complaining and I am very aware of how lucky we are. We had minor losses (except for some spectacular blackberry jam!) in the earthquake and have only struggled with power loss from the hurricane. We suffered no injuries or major property loss, and I am very grateful for that. But….I have now had my fill of natural disasters for a while.
The lack of electricity has led to a bit more creativity in my cooking, though I did manage to mooch off friends for a couple of meals. We enjoyed the last of the tomatoes I picked last week and didn’t can in two ways. I used about a pint worth for a loaf of focaccia and then the last bit I grilled and turned into tomato sauce.
Makes 1 large loaf
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
5 to 6 cups of white all-purpose flour
about a pint of fresh, ripe cherry tomatoes
about 1/3 cup olive oil
about 2 – 3 Tbsp fresh basil, sliced into thin strips
cornmeal for dusting
salt and pepper, to taste
Warm 2 cups of milk. Place yeast in a small bowl, add 1/2 Tbsp sugar, and pour in 1/2 cup of lightly warmed milk. Yeast should start to bubble and grow – proof that it is alive.
While the yeast is “proofing,” pour remaining milk into a large bowl, add remaining sugar, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Stir after the addition of each cup of flour. Add the proofed yeast mixture and stir. Add about 3 more cups of flour, again stirring after the addition of each cup. When dough is firm and sticking together, turn out onto floured surface. Knead, adding flour as needed, until dough is smooth and satiny and no longer sticky. It took me about 10 minutes of kneading. Roll the dough into a ball-shape.
Grease a steep-sided bowl and place the ball of dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, I prepared the tomatoes. Luckily, we have a gas stovetop, so with a match I could still use it to boil some water. I dropped about a pint of cherry tomatoes into the rapidly boiling water. Let them blanch for no more than 3 minutes. Quickly drain them and rinse with cold water. The blanching will make the tomato skin easy to peel.
Remove the tomato skins and drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil. Set aside.
When doubled, turn out the dough again onto a floured surface and knead again gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a rolling pin and/or your hands, roll the dough into a rectangle shape about 1-inch thick.
Lightly dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Place the dough on the sheet and using your fingers push the dough to fill the pan.
Pour the tomatoes and olive oil over the top of the dough. Push your fingers into the dough to create little indentions and an uneven surface, and also to push the tomatoes into the dough very lightly.
Sprinkle with basil.
Leave it to rise again until it is doubled. At this point, I traveled to my brother’s apartment to use his working oven. Just before baking, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Bake in a 425 degree F preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden.
We sliced the loaf into squares to make into sandwiches with fresh mozzarella and Italian cured meats.
Grilled Tomato Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
2 to 3 pounds of fresh, ripe tomatoes
about 3 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp fresh basil
Drizzle the tomatoes with about half the olive oil and place them on a grill.
Cook over medium heat until wrinkled and lightly charred, turning as necessary.
Remove from the grill, place in a bowl and add minced garlic. Let sit for about 10 minutes to meld flavors.
If you have power, you can puree the tomatoes in a blender. Or, you can use a food mill, like I did.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a wide, deep skillet. Pour the pureed tomatoes to the skillet and add herbs. Simmer sauce, stirring frequently until thickened to desired consistency. It took me about 15 or so minutes.
Season with salt, to taste. Use it right away, or you can put it in your freezer to enjoy the taste of summer later.