Focaccia bread — the plump, dimpled cousin to pizza — has a dedicated following worldwide, plus enough regional Italian recipes to fill volumes. We narrowed it down to three classics and turned it into a tasting party.
After watching San Franciscans line up around the block for a taste of the City's freshest focaccia — from shops that make nothing else — we had to have a party. Like pizza, focaccia is a blank canvas to all manner of ingredients. The spring garden and farmers markets are rich with the freshest herbs and baby vegetables for our recipes — mere starting points for your own creations. The key is to have at least three types of focaccia to taste, make them from scratch and serve them hot at a table decorated in Italian farmhouse style. Our table is layered with an eclectic mix of earth-toned dishware, colored glass and rustic floral linens.
Any discussion of focaccia begins with how it's different from pizza. At its most basic, pizza is thin and foccaccia is about one inch thick. Pizza has tomato sauce and focaccia is seasoned with olive oil and chopped herbs. Pizza is a main event and focaccia is an accompaniment. The chewy focaccia resides somewhere between a thick-crust pizza and French bread. It's dimpled on top with little pools of olive oil that soak up flavor like a sponge.
Before guests arrive, spend the day preparing the dough from scratch. It requires patience to make the yeast mixture and allow the dough to rise, but the results are worth it.
Decide if the focaccia will be a side dish or a main dish. If it's the main course, bring out bowls of olives, cruets of good olive oil and balsamic for dipping, Italian salumi and cold cuts, a simple salad and wine. We chose Turnbull Wines (turnbullwines.com) for their Viogner which perfectly matches the savory, yeasty bread. If focaccia is a side dish, serve something simple like a spring vegetable minestrone, with focaccia for dipping. You can even go the extra mile and have guests play chef, choosing toppings and manning the oven.
Put the focaccia in the oven 20 minutes before dinner and serve it fresh and hot. Don't forget to save leftover bread for sandwiches and panini.
Set the table while the dough rises. Casual style comes with dinnerware, glassware and linens in a comfortable mix of earth tones and floral designs. Rather than looking haphazard, this carefully curated table makes a strong style statement that perfectly suits your rustic Italian meal. A Kalamkari table throw set askew looks as inviting as a picnic blanket topped with dishes and glasses in delicate pops of color.