Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Setting aside spades and worries

Pepper and Eggplant Coca
It's been a quiet summer for the two of us. We stuck pretty close to home, busy tending to ideas and vegetable beds, hoping that in time they'd flourish. But summer is fast fading, which means that many of our good friends, who've spent the summer away, will be back in town. I'm thinking that it's time that we set aside our spades and worries for a little and think about breaking the quiet, about maybe having a party.
When we do, this flatbread is sure to be a part of it. (If you want to get fancy, this flatbread is technically a Catalan coca of sorts.) It is perfect late-summer party fare--just red pepper, onion, and eggplant cooked down into a luxurious mess, spread out on thin stretches of dough, and then slipped into a hot oven for a scant few minutes. There, the onion especially melts and chars, while the dough blisters and bakes up shatteringly crisp. Cut into squares, it is ready to be passed around.
In a row
This flatbread is decidedly unfussy. The dough, though yeasted, is forgiving. I have let it sit out an hour or two longer than it really should have and then stuck extra in the fridge for later use. It held up just fine. You could definitely cook down the vegetables a few hours, maybe a day even, in advance. And with everything prepped, you could easily keep turning out flatbreads with a party in full swing.

Onion, Red Pepper, and Eggplant Coca
Adapted from Sam and Sam Clark's Moro East

112 g / 1 cup bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
75 ml / scant 1/3 cup water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium eggplant, cut into half-inch cubes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
2 medium Spanish onions, roughly chopped
2 red peppers, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

To make the flatbread dough, place the flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Stir together the oil and water in a cup. Make a well in the flour and then pour in the water mixture a little at a time, mixing constantly with your hands. When all the yeast mixture has been incorporated, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead well for at least 5 minutes. If the dough is still stick, add a little more flour; if it is too stiff, a little more water. It is ready when no longer tacky but soft, elastic, and smooth. Put the dough in a clean, oiled  bowl and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours. After proofing, it can be chilled until needed. Give it some time to come back to room temperature, about an hour.
For the topping, first toss the eggplant with the salt in a colander and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, 10-inch sauté pan and, when hot but not smoking, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Give them a good stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for 15-20 minutes more, until the onions are golden and sweet and the peppers soft. Be sure to stir them often so they cook evenly and do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Blot the eggplant dry with a towel, add to the pan along with the rosemary, and cook for a final 15 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant is soft all the way through. Remove from heat and rain off any excess oil. Check the seasoning and set aside to cool.
When ready to bake the flatbread, preheat the oven to 525 degrees F (with a baking stone, if you have one). Divide the dough into two and roll out half very thinly to make a 12-inch by 8-inch oblong. If it's being stubborn, cover and let rest for a few minutes for the gluten to relax and then try again. Place it on a peel, if using a baking stone, or on a baking sheet, if not. Spread half the vegetables over the surface, right up to the edges of the dough. Bake for 8-15 minutes (flatbread baked on a stone will take significantly less time), until browned and crispy underneath. While the first flatbread is in the oven, start rolling and topping the next one. They are great served piping hot from the oven or at room temperature.
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.


  1. This looks like the best kind of escapism, and I heartily applaud your plan to set aside your worries in these last weeks of summer. There will be plenty of time for work later when the summer bounty and long humid evenings are but a memory.

    I also feel like I'm currently making up for lost time; inspired by you and the Recipe Lab in the Times, I finally made a batch of jam. Even if later than expected, it's nice to suddenly find yourself in the spirit of summer!

    1. Oh, was this the Kevin West blueberry jam? I wish I had the time to try making some. Blueberries and gin sound like they'd be great together.

  2. Hi Katie,

    I have just recently stumpled upon you blog and I enjoy it so much. I must have read every post by now. Love your writing, your crazy awesome momofuku projects and your recklessness.

    And you encouraged me to start making my own puff pastry today! :)

    Have an nice day.

    1. Thank you! I've got a couple of project-like posts in the pipeline, one of which will involve making some puff pastry next week! I hope your puff turned out well!

    2. Sounds great! Can't wait.

      I did not get around on making puff pastry yet, unfortunately. Somehow i did not consider the fact that making something as time consuming as puff pastry and having a toddler at home does not go together that well. I have to plan this project more ahead. Btw, what recipe are you using for your puff pastry? I have chosen the one from the Bourke Street Bakery. But it does take 2 days.

      Best wishes from Hamburg!

    3. I have to confess, this week was the first time that I've made full-on puff pastry. In previous instances, I've just made Gourmet magazine's "rough puff," which is sort of a hybrid between puff pastry (because it is layered and rolled onto itself) and pie dough (because the butter is cut into the flour in small pieces). You can find it here. It's definitely less time consuming than real puff pastry.

      I'm not familiar with the Bourke Street Bakery book. This week, I used the recipe from Bouchon Bakery. It's a three-day recipe, though most of the work happens on the second day. I haven't baked it yet and won't for another few days (it's in the freezer right now), so I can't say how it turned out yet, but things went pretty smoothly as far as I can tell. Puff pastry, unfortunately, is by nature time-consuming to make because you need to (a) let the butter chill after working with it and (b) let the gluten in the dough relax so that it's easier to stretch and roll out. However, most of the work is done in 20-minute bursts, so if you can just find 20 uninterrupted minutes every couple of hours...but I don't know how it is with toddlers and whether that's in fact possible! Good luck!

    4. I haven't been to either of them but I think the Bourke Street Bakery is something like the Australian equivalent to the Bouchon Bakery. Their book is beautiful with great recipes, instructions and techniques on all the different kinds of doughs.
      Anyway, I started the three-day-puff pastry-journey today! :) The dough is now chilling in the fridge waiting for it's encounter with the butter block tonight! The Bouchon Bakery recommends to refrigerating overnight after the second turn with 4 turns in total. So it's a three-day-recipe, too. I hope I don't completely fail.
      Loved reading your last posts. And your galettes look fantastic!

  3. Hi Katie, I'm always happy when I see a post is from you. This flatbread looks like exactly the kind of thing I've been in the mood for-- looks like you're profiting from the best of the season, as always! I hope you're doing well x

    PS I have bookmarked that hoosier mama pie you posted about before this, as well as Tim's. Those look like two of the best pies I've ever seen.

    1. Thanks, Amy. I've visited the farmers' market(s) this summer more than I ever have. It's been rewarding.

      I'm guessing that you're not going to find too many pies while living in Paris, but all that other pastry! Heaven!

  4. Katie this is just gorgeous! I love eggplant and our friends have been gifting us some from their garden, picture-perfect little beauties, followed by "we don't know what to do with them." But there are so many ways to enjoy them! Flatbread? Oh my, yes. Anything baked on a crust is totally my jam and this is calling my name (without even a slice of cheese in sight). I think a party sounds wonderful, I may follow suit!

    1. You should recommend to your friends this Ottolenghi eggplant risotto recipe. Smoky eggplant is a brilliant addition to the creamy rice. I made it recently and can't wait to make it again.

      And yeah, with the flatbread, I think the heavy use of olive oil means that you don't really feel the need for any added richness. However, I'm sure that no one would complain either if you scattered some feta on top of these.

  5. What a beauty. You have cooked from Moro East several times now, and several times I always say, "Oh, I should buy that book", and then I don't. Clearly the universe is trying to tell me something! Hope you're well, Katie!

    1. Truth be told, I haven't gotten quite as much use out of it as I hoped I would. I don't know quite why--there's definitely more in it that I'd like to try, and the roast lamb recipe, La Caldereta, is incredible and worth repeating.

      I am very busy and will be for a while but good! Hope you're well too.