Feta and Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, carrot, yellow bell pepper, asparagus, purple potatoes, beets and white button mushrooms are shaped into a rainbow with a cheesy heart on top of focaccia bread. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Feta and Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, carrot, yellow bell pepper, asparagus, purple potatoes, beets and white button mushrooms are shaped into a rainbow with a cheesy heart on top of focaccia bread. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Colorful food for a colorful world

Rainbow vegetables adorn this colorful focaccia canvas.

By Tressa Dale

For the Peninsula Clarion

For a time, I worked the overnight shift in a large-scale bakery near Boulder, Colorado. I spent many nights in front of a massive oven, my face flushed by the heat, loading and unloading fragrant loaves of hot bread in the traditional way, using a heavy wooden peel.

In that solitude the only sounds were the roar of the fans, the crackling of cooling bread, and the scraping of wood on the oven floor.

The work became a single repeating motion, a dance of twisting and lifting and spinning in rhythm with the fire and steam. I enjoyed the many hours during which I was free to live in fantasies while my hands and body labored. I found that monotonous exertion meditative and wholly satisfying.

We made a few varieties of freeform focaccia at the bakery, and I took great pride in the artistry of shaping the loaves. Through countless repetitions I learned how to flip my wrist in just the same motion so each loaf would be identical. Nowadays, I make my bread one loaf at a time instead of by the hundreds, so there is no need or desire for uniformity, and focaccia is an ideal canvas for self-expression. Careful arrangement of vegetables and herbs can create nutritious landscapes and scenes of life or fantasy, each loaf a unique work of art to be proud of.

Focaccia dough is simple but requires some forethought and planning as there are two proofs. The whole process takes about 4 hours start to finish.

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup warm water

2 ½ teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon honey

½ cup olive oil

Directions:

Mix the yeast and honey into the warm water. The water should be about body temperature. Let sit 10 minutes until you see a layer of bubbles on top.

Combine the flour and salt and mix well.

Pour the water mixture into the flour, add ¼ cup of the olive oil, and knead until the dough is smooth and springy. A dough hook attachment on your stand mixer works well for this if you’re not up for a workout.

Coat a large bowl and the dough ball in a little oil, cover, and let sit 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Thoroughly grease a 9×13 baking sheet with the remaining olive oil, and spread your dough out to cover the entire pan. Cover again and let rise 1 hour.

While you’re waiting for the second rise, you can prepare your “paints” for the canvas. Vegetables should be sliced thinly, and harder vegetables (like potatoes, broccoli, and carrots) should be roasted in advance so they will be fully cooked in the finished product. Be sure to wash your hands frequently or wear gloves because you’ll be handling the food quite a bit.

After the hour is up, use your fingertips to create dimples all over the bread then create your design as quickly as possible. If you are attempting something ambitious, I suggest practicing the design on a cutting board first.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until the bread is firm and springy.

My focaccia was created using feta and Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, carrot, yellow bell pepper, asparagus, purple potatoes, beets and white button mushrooms, formed into a rainbow with a cheesy heart.

I believe a colorful world and colorful food nourishes both body and mind, and that all the unique and beautiful colors of this life should be celebrated thoughtfully and with pride.

More in Life

File
Minister’s Message: Who is this man?

Over and over again, they struggle to rightly name who he is and what he’s up to

A still from “Casting Maya,” a film about Ascension Bay on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is seen in this screenshot. From Pure Films, the short will be one of nine shown at the International Fly Fishing Film Festival on Aug. 10 in Kenai, Alaska. (IF4/flyfilmfest.com)
Anglers’ night out

Annual International Fly Fishing Film Festival returns to Kenai

Candy pecans make a sweet snack to enjoy on excursions. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Road trip reimagined

Candied pecans accompany more subdued wandering

Robert C. Lewis photo courtesy of the Alaska Digital Archives 
Ready to go fishing, a pair of guests pose in front of the Russian River Rendezvous in the early 1940s.
The Disappearing Lodge, Part 1

By the spring of 1931, a new two-story log building — the lodge’s third iteration — stood on the old site, ready for business

Viola Davis stars in “The Woman King.” (Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.)
On the screen: Women reign in latest action flick

‘The Woman King’ is a standout that breaks new ground

Artwork donated for the Harvest Auction hangs at the Kenai Art Center on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Auction, juried show to showcase local talent

Kenai Art Center will host its annual Harvest Auction this weekend, juried art show next month

Sweet and tart cranberry pecan oat bars are photographed. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Cranberries to match the bright colors of fall

Delicious cranberry pecan oat bars are sweet and tart

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Take a chance

The fact of the matter is, you can find a way to hurt yourself in just about any athletic endeavor.

Alaska Digital Archives
George W. Palmer (left), the namesake for the city in the Matanuska Valley and the creek near Hope, poses here with his family in 1898 in the Knik area. Palmer became a business partner of Bill Dawson in Kenai in the last years of Dawson’s life.
Bill Dawson: The Price of Success, Part 5

Thus ended the sometimes tumultuous Alaska tenure of William N. Dawson.

File
Minister’s Message: Plenty

The Bible story of Joseph in Egypt preparing the harvest in the seven years of plenty teaches us some vital lessons

A still from “Jazzfest.” (Photo provided)
DocFest could be the golden year of documentaries — again

Homer Documentary Film Festival returns for 18th year with solid mix

From left: Lacey Jane Brewster, Terri Zopf-Schoessler, Donna Shirnberg, Tracie Sanborn and Bill Taylor (center) rehearse “Menopause Made Me Do It” on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Applause for menopause

Kenai Performers’ new play takes aim at ‘not the most glorious part of womanhood’