May 31, 2011

street food

Apparently it rains a lot in Zürich in the summer. And it's not a warm summer afternoon rain, it's a cold-to-the-core all day rain that dampens your clothes and your spirits. Yesterday I was sweating and tearing off as many layers as was socially acceptable, and today I'm hunkered inside with my sweatshirt on (god for bid I go outside in a sweatshirt here) and feeling a bit sorry for myself. Life as an expat has its ups and downs, and today is a bit of a down day for me, which is okay since so far I'm doing well adjusting to our new life. Giving in to the homesickness every once in awhile seems acceptable and perhaps even healthy. I'm sure this blog makes it seems like my life is one big culinary-travel extravaganza - bake a cake one day and then off to Italy the next - and sometimes it is, but most of the time it's me waking up and figuring out a way to make myself happy for that one day.

Today I'm attempting to keep my spirits up by doing laundry, which is an amazingly satisfying task, and eating fresh focaccia while looking at the Rome pictures. Two years ago, when I was in Rome for a month long drawing class, I ate pizza every single day. Literally. It got to the point where I was eating it cold for breakfast. There is nothing better than a slice of thick Roman pizza purchased from one of the pizzeria nooks, as I like to call them, where you order by slice and pay buy weight. My favorite topping is a simple marinara sauce, no cheese or meat, just sauce. I was desperate for pizza during our trip to Rome, but I'm embarrassed and disappointed to say that I didn't have a chance to eat any. We were on the go almost the entire time and we were eating so well and so much that I didn't have room for even a tiny little slice when we found ourselves near some of my favorite pizzerias.

Colorful veggies and fruits layered on fresh focaccia seemed like a good solution to my Roman cravings and my rainy-day blues. The combination of colors in the toppings is entirely dependent on what I had in the house already since I wasn't about to venture out in this weather to grab anything special. Thankfully I had cherry tomatoes, donut peaches, scallions on hand and mint growing in a planter on the terrace. Ta-da a pizza is made (if you can call it that). Perhaps I should start selling pizza by the slice on summer days...hmm...I'd probably get arrested.
A plain focaccia is considered pizza in Rome. My stomach wasn't feeling so hot one day (too much salami?) so I went out to find some bread to calm things down and I wandered into a deli that was selling plain focaccia and referring to it as pizza. It was the most amazing slice of bread I've had in a long time. Wow! It was crispy, but doughy and airy and almost melted in my mouth.
While I was in architecture I ate almost every single meal with plastic cutlery, out of an aluminum to-go container. There simply wasn't time to go to the grocery store let alone cook, so when we were all in Rome, scattered in apartments throughout Trastevere, we relished the free time and fresh produce and cooked almost every night. Okay so that's not really true, 'we' didn't cook, my friend Tala cooked. From stuffed persian peppers to roast chicken to chocolate cake, we were well fed! The only truly Roman food I ate was the street food - pizza and gelato - and the rest was cooked by Tala in our little apartment on the forth floor with twelve of us perched on the couches, passing platters of meat and veggies.
Yesterday a new friend introduced me to the Turkish market and these adorable donut peaches. I only bought five, but I wish I had bought five more. They are almost bite size, but they are incredibly flavorful.
Have you been to Rome? If not put it on your to-travel list. Don't rush there right now though, it's peak tourist season and it's getting super duper hot = sweaty mobs of aimless tourists. Ahhh. That will probably make you second guess a trip to Rome at all, but really it is an incredible city with a fascinating history...and delicious pizza!

focaccia recipe - adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
- 3 cups all purpose bread flour
- 2 tsps instant yeast
- 2 tsps salt
- 1 cup water
- 6 tbsp olive oil

In the bowl of your standing mixer combine the flour, salt and yeast. With the dough hook mix at low speed and slowly add in the water and 3 tbsps of the olive oil. Mix until dough forms a smooth ball that sticks to the bottom of the bowl, but is free from the sides. If the dough is too sticky and a bit more flour and if it is too dry and a bit more water (1 tbsp or so until right consistency). Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 seconds. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into a bowl that has been lined with a towel. Cover the dough with the towel and let it sit for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

After the 2 hour rise, take the dough out of the bowl, knead again for about a minute, form into a ball and place back in the bowl and let it rise for another 20 minutes

Pour 1 tbsp of the olive oil in an 11 x 17 jelly roll pan and place the dough into the pan. Press and smooth the dough into the shape of a rectangle. The dough will be elastic and will resist being shaped, so let it sit for a few minutes and then stretch again. Repeat until the dough is roughly covering the pan. Cover with a towel and let it sit for another 30 minutes (I know so much waiting!)

Heat the oven to 425 F. Uncover the dough and dimple the surface by pushing into the dough with your fingers - think focaccia! Brush the remaining olive oil in the surface, sprinkle generously with salt and then place in the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 and bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Top with your topping of choice and eat while watching Roman Holiday! I chopped cherry tomatoes, peaches, mint, scallions and mixed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I thought about avocado, but decided to save that for dinner with Z.
I never wait for things to cool. I eat them right away, straight out of the oven. Cookies are gone before I even get the pan out of the oven, and cakes are cut into right away before I even get a chance to let them cool and ice them and if I wasn't planning on photographing this focaccia I probably would have used the oven mitts to rip it and shove it in my mouth.
I initially tried to eat it like a sandwich, but it was just too big and cumbersome and the ratio of bread to filling was too high, so I made an open face sandwich.
I'm not sure where you are reading from, if it's sunny or rainy there, but either way hopefully this brightened your day.

Off to get the laundry and put the clean sheets back on the bed - another one of my favorite things...clean sheets! Especially on a rainy, cold day.


  1. I want to go back to Rome! Your fantastic photos make me miss it so much! Love your blog, Talley. Keep it up!

  2. Hi Hilary!! Let's all meet in Sperlonga next weekend! Such a fun summer, if only we could go back and do it all again! Hope NYC is treating you well, I miss it (even though I didn't live there) and all of you. I'll be in touch the next time I'm back in the states.

  3. Talley! I saw your gorgeous weddings photos on FB and then a link to your blog, which I love. I had no idea you were in Switzerland - amazing! Hope all is well and that newlywed life is amazing. I'd love to hear from you when you have a minute. xxoo darcy

  4. Pizza bianca! So what you want to do is - hot from the oven - slice horizontally in two, put some slices of mortadella in there, close it up again so the fat just starts to melt a little and... well, you can imagine the rest.

  5. oh my goodness...melting fat, that is my type of meal. I'd probably even add some salty butter or olive oil or both! haha, delicious!

  6. I am in LOVE with your blog; seriously can't stop reading it and love your pictures, Talley. You are so talented!
    Hope you are well!

  7. Amie! You are so nice to leave a comment - really it is very much appreciated. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing to no one and it always cheers me up to hear that people love the blog. I'm equally smitten with yours. Hope you've had a great weekend. xo